In developing our newest iPhone app, Gumball Blast, we did a little research on the psychology of game playing to learn why people so enjoy solving puzzles and riddles. I thought you would be interested to know what our research turned up.
The best time to solve a puzzle is when you’re happy. Sounds crazy, but neuroscientists at Northwestern University have found that people are more likely to solve puzzles with sudden insight when they are amused or in a good humor. Researchers came up with this theory by showing students a series of short videos and then asking them to solve puzzles. The students, who watched a video of Robin Williams doing his stand-up routine, solved more puzzles over all and significantly more by sudden insight than the students who watched serious or scary videos.
“What we think is happening,” said Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist who conducted the study with Karuna Subramaniam, “is that humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections” to solve puzzles.
These findings are consistent with dozens of experiments that show how a positive mood leads to better creative thinking. It’s as if a good mood opens the doors to your subconscious and lets your brain look around in hidden places. We call this insight or inspiration, as opposed to analytical or logical thinking.
The appeal to brainteasers is more than just getting a reward for finding the right answer. Activities like doing crosswords, playing solitaire and Sudoku keep your brain young and nimble. And now scientists have shown that this same activity inspires the mind to think in new, different and creative ways.
So if your brain has been working hard on everyday problems, why not give it a break. Open the door to some fresh ideas with a little help from a good puzzler. And might I suggest checking out APTE’s Gumball Blast on the Apple Store…a game guaranteed to put your brain in a good mood.