[box]What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?
Spoiler alert: The answer is mankind.[/box]This riddle is centuries old and dates back to the Ancient Grecian legend of Oedipus Rex, who rescues the city of Thebes from the Sphynx by answering this riddle. Riddles and brain teasers such as this have always been around, varying between culture and country. In his article, Marcel Danesi mentions how the brainteasers we are familiar with have universal trends. The concept of the riddle is the same, but the subjects and the narrative change.
Still this begs the questions: why are brainteasers so attractive universally? What possible benefit could people have from teasing their mind?
Actually, teasing your brain is great for long term mental health. Danesi describes brain teasers as an opportunity to expand problem solving skills and think outside of the box. Riddles and brain teasers compel the solver to creatively work through the problem and think of novel solutions. In an article from The Washington Post, Shanker Vedantam reported a study in which researchers took four groups of participants and trained three of them in different fields of mental cognition: memory, reasoning, speed. The remaining group was left as a control and was not trained. There were ten training sessions for each group. Each session lasted 75 minutes. The study found that the groups trained in those skills performed significantly better than those in the control group when tested five years after the training. After half a decade, memory-trained participants showed better memory capabilities, speed-trained participants showed faster thinking skills, and those trained in higher reasoning tested better in solving logic puzzles. Training and teasing the human brain in this way can result in similar, if not greater, long term benefits (especially if training starts at a younger age). It’s even fun to tease your brain with puzzles, riddles, and games! Blue Orange has five games with roots in brain twisting riddles.
This game is a perceptual psychologist’s dream! This game thrives off the stroop effect: a psychological phenomenon in brain flexibility. The stroop effect happens when reading colored words. Look at the row below call out the color of the font of each word:
RED YELLOW BLACK PURPLE GREEN BLUE ORANGE BROWN
That wasn’t too hard, was it? Now do the same thing with this next row:
PURPLE RED BLACK ORANGE GREEN BROWN BLUE YELLOW
I bet that last one was a little trickier; that’s the stroop effect. It’s hard for our brains to separate the color of the font from what the word says. This is how Color Clash works. You have many tiles with different colored chameleons surrounded by a written color written in colored font. Triple the confusion! The game is played in multiple variations, but the objective is to match tiles by color (be that the color of the chameleon, color of the font, or the written color). This challenge in mental flexibility will boggle your brain with tricky colors.
Pixy Cubes require players to recognize patterns and piece them together with patterned dice. There are three ways to play: memory, speed, and design. In the speed version of the game, players flip challenge cards and try to replicate them as fast as they can with their four colored dice. In memory, players take ten seconds to memorize a challenge card before trying to replicate it. Finally in design, players use all the dice to piece together a design card,or they make up their own designs.
Crazy Cheese Puzzle works in similarly, only there’s no image and the player has to piece together identical looking wood cheese slices to complete the cheese. While the holes look identical, the end result is tricky to achieve without a good eye to spot where the parts match.
Much like jigsaw puzzles, both of these games require the player to piece different parts together. Also like jigsaw puzzles, both of these games work both hemispheres of the brain. The right hemisphere of the brain is known for creative and comprehensive thinking, while the left hemisphere is more logically driven and thinks sequentially. According to Monica Dennis in “Jigsaw Puzzles Benefit the Brain”, piecing together these big pictures can stimulate both halves of the brain: one being holistically creative and the other being sequentially logical. This is little wonder since you have to logically put together a picture or art piece. “Finding the Missing Piece” by Researchers Verdine, Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek, and Newcombe also seems to imply that jigsaw puzzles promote spatial understanding in younger children.
So whether you want to mingle with colors in Pixy Cubes or twist your mind around confusing cheese slices in Crazy Cheese, your brain is bound to grow.
Pin Point! is a spot the difference puzzle with a twist. Instead of spotting the difference between two images, the player must compare all the images and eliminate the objects and characters that have a variation. After eliminating all the variations, the player calls out the color of the original object. Here’s an example:
On this card we are trying to find the original headphones. We do that by eliminating differences in the other headphones. For example, the red headphones are the only headphones that don’t have the music symbol, so we eliminate those. The green headphones are the only ones missing part of the headset. Eliminate green. The yellow is missing the sound bubble, and the pink is missing the inside of the earmuffs. Get rid of those and that leaves blue as the original!
Now, what part of the brain does this game develop? As a matter of fact, the find the difference games strengthen the brain on a cumulative level. According to Dr. Pascale Michelon in her article “Brain Games: Spot the Difference” these games stimulate all the lobes of the brain. First, when you analyze the image your are working occipital lobe, the part of your brain responsible for processing images. Second, understanding spatially where those images are triggers both the occipital lobe and parietal lobe, the lobe responsible for spatial understanding. Finally, your frontal and temporal lobes exercise working memory, a function of the brain which allows an individual to retain temporary information, when the player looks between the images and tries to remember where the potential differences are.
Pin Point! does this on a bigger scale with 72 challenge cards and multiple ways to exercise that big brain.
Finally, our very own Best Toys for Kids 2016 winner is quite the mental trainer as well. Game reviewers have also remarked how Robert Fraga’s award-winning Dr. Eureka plays a lot like the fabled Tower of Hanoi. When we looked deeper into this age-old conundrum, we learned that the puzzle originates from an Eastern apocalyptic legend. According to this legend, when the world was created, God made a temple that housed three pegs. On one of the pegs are 64 golden discs stacked from largest to smallest. The priests in the temple must take each disc one at a time (gold is very heavy!) and re-stack the discs on the last peg. However, the priests can’t place a larger disc on top of a smaller disc. When the priests complete this task, it’s said that the world will end. Fun fact: it’ll take 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 moves to complete this puzzle, and they have to lug around gold discs. I don’t think that apocalypse is happening any time soon.
However, the puzzle makes for a fantastic math problem and an excellent mind bending game. Dr. Eureka functions along similar sequential rules as the fabled Tower of Hanoi. In the game you have to match the colored balls to the card in front of you, without dropping or touching a ball. Unlike the original puzzle, in Dr. Eureka you can flip your test tube over to match the card combination and it won’t take you eternity to complete. However, it’s not a simple drop-them-in and match-them-up challenge. Like what Danesi said, you can’t attack the problem head on. You have to think around the formula and pour your molecules in a different order from what you’d expect.
So yes! Your brain appreciates all the love and brain teasing you give it. Whether it’s the growing brain of an 8-year old-child or the mature brain of a gaming parent, riddles and puzzles will work to stimulating and strengthening the mind in the best way possible.
[box]Now here’s a riddle for you: Why did riddle pick on brain?
He was teasing![/box]