Word Play

As a linguist, I love playing crosswords and word play games. Recently, I discovered a pretty cool word play game on iPhone and have been playing it obsessively since. The rules are simple yet complex: form as many words as possible using the letters given (see the cover photo). This is easier said than done, since rather than simply identifying words in a pool/grid of random letters as in the case of word recognition games, the idea here is to form words using the letters given, which requires active rather than passive knowledge. As a result, this game requires a bit more cognitive energy than most crossword-like games and I have had some serious headaches as I work my way up the various levels. There is one thing I have noticed though, and that is my performance level tends to increase inversely to my rate of play i.e. the less I play, the better I am at forming news words, which is a contrast to word recognition games which I can play for hours and hours without letting my attention level drop. While it is true that my skills in playing this game (or any game in general) improve with experience, my actual cognitive and creative abilities increase when I do not play, since whenever I come back to it after a prolonged and sustained break, my performance rate improves very noticeably. This is probably due to the fact that I am looking at the same puzzles with a fresh pair of eyes and a fresh mind, which allows me to form words much more efficiently. In any case, scientists have proven that incubation is at least as important for cognitive growth and development as physical/mental training, and most of the time our best ideas come to us when we are *not* working. In any type of work which requires creativity, it may be mandatory to take regular breaks and do something else, which may turn out to be an effective strategy for time management. Funny paradox, and one that may do wonders to our professional lives. Don’t give up.

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