Do you want to play? Do you want a simple brain hack to make you playful, increase your amusement, make you laugh inside?
In today’s world we might solve puzzles mostly for challenge, but it is likely that these same puzzle solving strategies were important for survival in our distance past, and therefore part of our evolutionary developmental pattern.
You could call puzzle solving ‘the creative spark’ which we would have used around the campfire, and maybe to first figure out how to start fires ourselves.
Yesterday, I talked about how puzzle and problems are sometimes broken down into two categories. Today we explore how our brain reacts to puzzles – especially to those type of puzzles that require an out-of-the box insight to solve (many puzzle have some of this component in them).
Research in Puzzle solving
Interestingly, research found that if you had been amused you were better at making the leap and solving certain types of problems (out-of-the-box insight type of puzzle/problems). How they tested this was comparing the ability to solve puzzles after watching a short comedy routine, a boring video (I think we can all think of examples), or scary video. Subjects were more likely to have insight and solve the problem after watching the comedy routine.
“Dr. Beeman and Dr. Subramaniam had college students solve word-association puzzles after watching a short video of a stand-up routine by Robin Williams. The students solved more of the puzzles over all, and significantly more by sudden insight, compared with when they’d seen a scary or boring video beforehand.”
“What we think is happening….is that the humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections” to solve puzzles.
Therefore, if you are having difficulties of making the leap and coming up with the insight to solve the problem try lowering your brain’s threshold by watch something that makes you laugh – open your mind.
Does it work in reverse?
If putting us into laughing state of mind helps us solve puzzles then do playing with puzzles put us into a happy-laughing state? Previous research indicates that the puzzle solving can release dopamine – the main reward neurotransmitter in the brain – which would ring our little inner Skinner bell after we solve the problem. What happens in our brain before we figure out the puzzle, before we even start the puzzle?
“The very idea of doing a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle typically shifts the brain into an open, playful state that is itself a pleasing escape…”
An open, playful state sounds like a delightful state of mind. So if you want to increase your openness and playfulness try solving some type of puzzle, riddle, or problem.
Take home message:
Puzzle and problem challenge and stimulate the brain and is good for our brain health by keeping it active and flexible. But an added bonus, and maybe why we enjoy puzzles so much, is they can put us in an amused state of mind. Our brain becomes more open and playful.
Puzzles can come in many forms: crosswords, sudoku, picture puzzles, riddles, math, word, SAT, logic, some computer games, and life itself – go enjoy them.
Hope all of you have a playful weekend.
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