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Benefits of Wordle: 2 Real and 2 Imagined?
Madelaine Claire Weiss, LICSW, MBA, BCC -- MIndOverMatters Madelaine Claire Weiss, LICSW, MBA, BCC -- MIndOverMatters
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Washington, DC
Monday, February 7, 2022


Table of Contents

Are You Playing Wordle?

Are you one of the 2.5 million people playing this new word game, Wordle?

Wordle is an online 5-letter word game invented by Josh Wardle (Wardle, Wordle, good one). The story is that Josh made up the game during the pandemic because he knew his partner loved word games. Awww…

This game really is a wonderful ‘build it and they will come’ story. In fact, so many players came so fast that the New York Times just bought Wordle for over a million dollars.

This also means that, even though it is free to play now, it is not clear how long that will last.

So, if you are wondering whether you should get on (or off) the bandwagon now, let’s look at what some of the benefits of Wordle are and are not.

2 Benefits of Wordle: Real

Two benefits of Wordle found by Professor Penny Pexman and her colleagues, University of Calgary, are “Shared Experience” and “Need for Cognition.”

Shared experience is something people might be craving, now more than ever after years of pandemic. As Dr. Matt Baldwin put it on NPR (from the transcript):

I think it’s because we’re all working toward the exact same thing. So, the word is the same for everyone. And the number of guesses is the same for everyone. And so, it is a truly shared experience. There’s not a lot of variety there.

And psychology suggests that, when we all work toward a common goal, we really coalesce around that goal. And sort of group boundaries are broken down. And we come together. And, yeah, in Pokemon, there’s a lot of variety. Even in Sudoku or Words With Friends, it’s not necessarily a common goal despite being a shared experience. So, I think that’s one thing that sets Wordle apart.

The satisfaction of need for cognition, which varies among us, is also considered a benefit of playing Wordle. One definition of this psychological term is: “Need for cognition refers to an individual’s tendency to engage in and enjoy activities that require thinking (e.g., brainstorming puzzles).”

However, if you check out a few of the articles about need for cognition on the internet, you too might come away unclear if need for cognition is more about enjoying the brain exertion for its own sake, or is there something more deeply meaningful that is required.

I imagine Wordle would satisfy the former but not the latter for me. That is, I would rather read and write about why 2.5 million people are playing Wordle and I am not, than actually play the game. Epistemic hunger, thirst for knowledge, as my professor once said.

To each their own enjoyment. But there are people, maybe a lot of them, who have imagined certain benefits of Wordle that may or may not be there.

2 Benefits of Wordle: Imagined?

There is a commonly held belief that puzzles impact the health of our brains. Thus, there may be people who might figure that Wordle is a good use of their time because: 1) it makes us smarter, and 2) it wards off the effects of aging on the brain.

Maybe, maybe not. Studies have shown that there is a connection between doing jigsaw puzzles and brain health. Some of beneficial effects have been found in cognition, reasoning, short term memory, problem solving—perhaps imagination, creativity, and productivity too.

Sad to say, though, according to Pexman, Wordle makes us better at Wordle—rather than measurably smarter or somehow immune to the effects of aging on our brains.

To Play or Not To Play

So what if it is just for play? What if people on the high side of need for cognition play Wordle simply and only because it feels good to challenge the brain?

And, what if millions of people are playing Wordle because communing in play, with shared common goal during times of heightened social isolation, also feels good?

What’s wrong with feeling good, especially at a time when there is so much on our hearts and minds challenging us about everything else?

Surely, there would have to be people around the Wordle player who would benefit by the Wordle player’s improved mood. Even if that’s all there is, it is a lot.

Bottom line, if you want to play, play! From my earlier post on play, a pep talk by performance coach Joe Robinson:

When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It’s the brain’s reset button. This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.

Would love to hear if you are playing, how you are playing, and what you have found. Comment here below or contact me at madelaineweiss.com

Warm wishes,


Photo by verve.com

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Name: Madelaine Claire Weiss
Group: MindOverMatters, LLC
Dateline: Washington, DC United States
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