Why We Like Puzzles, and What We Get From Them

    By approaching challenges as puzzles, we can foster curiosity, collaboration, and find solutions while teaching problem-solving skills to our children.

    enJune 08, 2022

    About this Episode

    Puzzles may seem like fairly pedestrian pastimes — fun ways to while away a rainy afternoon. And while they certainly do make for satisfying diversions, my guest would say they're also more than that, and can teach us plenty about life as well.

    His name is A.J. Jacobs, and he's the author of The Puzzler: One Man's Quest to Solve the Most Baffling Puzzles Ever, from Crosswords to Jigsaws to the Meaning of Life. Today on the show, A.J. explains what makes a puzzle a puzzle, and why we're drawn to them and enjoy them so much. We then discuss the charm of certain puzzles, from crosswords and Rubik's Cubes, to jigsaws and mazes. Along the way, we discuss some of the strategies behind solving these puzzles, and how these strategies can help you become an all-around better thinker and decision maker, and better at navigating the puzzling dilemmas of life itself.

    Resources Related to the Podcast

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Puzzles can provide entertainment while also improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills for personal growth.
    • Puzzles offer entertainment, propel advancements, and provide certainty and satisfaction. Enjoy the journey of solving puzzles, just like you do in life.
    • Puzzles, both traditional and complex, offer valuable skills to adapt and problem-solve in confusing and challenging life situations. They have played significant roles in history and can help overcome tough obstacles.
    • Cognitive flexibility, finding starting points, and fresh perspectives are key to solving problems effectively. Taking breaks and practicing patience are also important for breakthroughs.
    • Puzzles serve as a powerful tool to unite individuals, foster collaboration, and teach valuable lessons in persistence and problem-solving.
    • Problem-solving can be approached through creativity or memorization, with unique solutions providing satisfaction. Choose your preferred approach based on personal preference and desired challenge level.
    • Jigsaw puzzles can provide relaxation, mental stimulation, and entertainment while also fostering a sense of accomplishment and challenging our problem-solving abilities.
    • Mazes teach us about the importance of flexibility and adaptability in problem-solving, traits essential for success in the legal field and everyday life.
    • Lateral thinking puzzles and logic puzzles challenge our assumptions and encourage unconventional possibilities, reminding us that creativity and open-mindedness are key to solving problems effectively.
    • It is important to recognize apophenia and remain flexible in our thinking to avoid pernicious false beliefs.
    • By approaching challenges as puzzles, we can foster curiosity, collaboration, and find solutions while teaching problem-solving skills to our children.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    How solving puzzles can transform your thinking and decision-making

    Puzzles can teach us valuable lessons about life. AJ Jacobs, the author of "The puzzler: One mans quest to solve the most baffling puzzles ever," explains that puzzles go beyond being mere diversions and can help us become better thinkers and decision-makers. By discussing the charm of puzzles like crosswords, rubiks cubes, and jigsaws, AJ highlights the strategies and skills involved in solving puzzles. These strategies can be applied to navigate the puzzling dilemmas of life itself. AJ's personal experience of being the answer to a crossword puzzle and the subsequent exploration of puzzles led him to realize the fascination and addiction millions of people have towards puzzles. In essence, puzzles offer not only entertainment but also opportunities for personal growth and problem-solving skills.

    Unlock your ingenuity and creativity with the power of puzzles!

    Puzzles are a problem that requires a solution involving ingenuity. They require thinking outside the box and coming up with creative ideas. Puzzles are not only a source of entertainment, but they have also propelled humanity's greatest advances. Just like in life, puzzles have the stages of the question mark, the arrow, and the exclamation point. The question mark represents the initial confusion, the arrow signifies the struggle to find a solution, and the exclamation point represents the aha moment of solving the puzzle. It is important to enjoy the journey and the process of solving puzzles, just as it is in life. Puzzles provide a sense of certainty and satisfaction, even in uncertain circumstances.

    Discover how puzzles can save the world and challenge uncertainty!

    Puzzles, whether they be traditional brainteasers or complex life situations, can serve as valuable training for navigating the challenges we face. Life is often confusing and lacks easy answers, similar to a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces and the picture are constantly changing. However, puzzles teach us valuable skills that can help us adapt and problem-solve. People have been engaged in various forms of puzzles for centuries, such as riddles, which can be found in every culture. Furthermore, puzzles, like crossword puzzles, have even played a role in historical events, including aiding in the code-breaking efforts of World War II. So, the next time you find yourself grappling with uncertainty, remember that puzzles can save the world and help us overcome even the toughest obstacles.

    This one simple trick will make you a better problem solver!

    Cognitive flexibility is crucial in problem-solving. Just like AJ Jacobs uses an eraser or delete key when solving crossword puzzles, we need to be open to new perspectives and willing to change our initial hypotheses. We often fall into the trap of being so sure that our answer is the right one that we refuse to consider evidence or listen to the other side. Another important lesson is finding a toehold, a starting point that helps us expand our understanding and solve problems step by step. It's also essential to practice patience and allow our brains to marinate on challenges. Taking a break and coming back with a fresh perspective can lead to breakthroughs, a technique Leonardo Da Vinci himself advocated. So, when faced with a difficult puzzle in life, remember the wisdom of crosswords: be flexible, find a starting point, and allow for fresh perspectives.

    Discover how puzzles bring people together and inspire resilience!

    Puzzles, whether crossword puzzles or the Rubik's cube, are not just solo activities, but actually foster a sense of community and bring people together. They provide a platform for conversation, collaboration, and bonding among individuals, regardless of their opinions or differences. Solving puzzles together allows people to share hints, compare strategies, and rely on each other's strengths. It is a way to bridge gaps and build connections. Additionally, the sheer magnitude of the Rubik's cube, with its 45 quintillion possible arrangements, serves as a reminder of the power of persistence and the ability to solve complex problems. Puzzles can instill humility and inspire us to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

    Discover the two distinct ways to solve problems - which one are you?

    Problem-solving can be approached in different ways, whether through creativity and exploration or through memorization and following instructions. The Rubik's Cube serves as an example of this distinction, with the original solvers having to come up with their own algorithms to solve it, while today's generation can easily learn from tutorials on YouTube. Both approaches have their merits, but there is a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment in finding unique solutions without relying on memorization. This applies to other puzzles as well, such as jigsaw puzzles, where the process of piecing together the image can be both relaxing and addictive. Ultimately, the choice between these approaches depends on personal preference and the level of challenge one seeks.

    Discover the surprising benefits and endless fun of jigsaw puzzles!

    Jigsaw puzzles can serve as both a meditative escape and a challenging mental exercise. During the pandemic, many people turned to jigsaw puzzles as a way to find solace and escape from reality. Engaging in puzzles can induce a state of flow where time seems to fly by effortlessly. On the other hand, some individuals are driven by the desire to solve complex puzzles quickly, participating in competitions and witnessing the incredible speed of experts. Additionally, there are artisanal wood-cut puzzles that offer a different type of challenge, incorporating unusual shapes, 3D elements, and pieces from other puzzles. It's important to embrace the frustration that may come with solving these puzzles and appreciate the fun, weird, and delightful aspects. Ultimately, both jigsaw puzzles and mazes have a long history as engaging puzzles that require strategy and attention to detail.

    Unlock the Secrets of Mazes: Discover the Psychology Behind Them!

    Mazes, whether they be hedge mazes, corn mazes, or logic puzzles, offer valuable lessons in human psychology and the importance of flexibility. While mazes have a long history and serve both spiritual and entertainment purposes, they also reveal how individuals can become cognitively inflexible, stubbornly believing they are right even when faced with clear evidence to the contrary. This holds true for both physical mazes and logic puzzles. By approaching mazes with a flexible mindset and using effective strategies like diagramming, one can successfully navigate through the twists and turns. This ability to think rationally and adapt in problem-solving situations is also seen as a desirable trait in the legal field.

    Unlock Your Brain's Potential with These Mind-Bending Puzzles!

    Lateral thinking puzzles and logic puzzles require us to think outside the box and use our imagination. These puzzles often challenge our assumptions and push us to consider unconventional possibilities. The example of the man with the unopened backpack falling from the sky highlights the importance of looking beyond the obvious to find the solution. Additionally, the story of the code at the CIA headquarters demonstrates that even the experts can struggle to crack complex puzzles. It reminds us that puzzles and codes are everywhere in our lives, from everyday transactions to cryptocurrency. Embracing a creative and open-minded mindset can help us approach challenges and problems in new and innovative ways.

    Why our minds are wired to believe in conspiracy theories.

    Our minds are wired to find patterns, which can be both beneficial and problematic. The term for finding patterns that don't actually exist is apophenia, and it often leads us to become attached to false or unsubstantiated beliefs. This can have real-life repercussions, as seen in the rise of conspiracy theories like QAnon. To combat apophenia, it is crucial to keep an open mind and maintain flexibility. We should not fall in love with our hypotheses and be willing to adjust our thinking when presented with contrary evidence. By treating life's challenges as puzzles and applying the lessons learned from puzzle-solving, we can approach problems with a more creative and adaptable mindset.

    This simple mindset shift can change how you approach challenges!

    Approaching life's challenges as puzzles can be more productive and inspiring than viewing them as insurmountable problems. By reframing our difficulties in this way, we can foster a sense of curiosity, playfulness, and collaboration that is essential for finding solutions and bridging divides. Instead of engaging in unproductive debates or berating each other, we can engage in constructive conversations by asking questions, exploring beliefs, and searching for common ground. This puzzle mentality can also be instilled in our children, teaching them to break down big tasks into manageable steps and approach them with perseverance and problem-solving strategies. So, the next time you encounter a challenge, remember to "get curious, not furious" and embrace the puzzle mindset.

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