A fascinating recent research study utilizing generations of evolving digital neural networks indicates that teamwork boosts intelligence. What’s so remarkable about this study conducted at Dublin’s Theoretical Ecology Research Group, is that it suggests those of us who play games cooperatively, rather than purely competitively, stand to benefit from marked signs of intellectual improvement. Scientists have long observed a connection between intelligence and social animals (who are often cooperative), and lead author Luke McNally pointed out that while intelligence facilitates cooperation, it does not necessarily lead to it. How then might we develop greater intelligence through cooperation in our daily lives?
As it turns out, games provide us with a wonderful way to practice cooperation on a regular basis. My grandmother loved to play Scrabble, which is something I hadn’t much reflected upon in a while … that is, until I played Words with Friends. Aha! I realized upon first playing this online game that appears to all intents and purposes identical to the classic Scrabble board game. So this is what all the fuss is about! This is why actor Alec Baldwin was kicked off an American Airlines flight last December for refusing to stop playing the game on his iPad. And what a surprise … it’s Scrabble!
The next surprise for me was the way my grandmother’s Scrabble teachings sprang instantly to mind as soon as I began playing Words with Friends. The way my grandma taught me to play Scrabble was not exactly the same way it’s usually played by most everyone else. My grandmother played Scrabble so often that she had memorized all acceptable two and three letter words in her Scrabble dictionary, and she played the game with the seasoned skill of a New York speed chess player.
The biggest lesson I gleaned from playing Scrabble with my Mor Mor (which means mother’s mother in Swedish) is that in each and every game, she always played cooperatively. Maybe she’s being so thoughtful of me because I’m just a young girl, I used to think, but as the years went by and I grew up, I saw this was not the case.
“Let’s see what we can make from those letters,” Mor Mor would say to encourage me, as I saw I had the strangest assortment of consonants with not a single vowel. “We just need to find a place where you can connect to a vowel,” and “We can fill in the entire board, if we stretch this word up, and the next one can build from there,” she’d suggest.
Essentially, my Mor Mor taught me how to play cooperatively with others in a way that helps everyone win, making each move with the primary goal being to do what is best for all players–not simply what’s best for oneself.
I see in retrospect how this Win-Win approach to life was so much a part of my grandmother’s cooperative philosophy on life. I’m amazed that even today I’m still learning important life lessons from our friendly games of Scrabble.
Thanks to recent research studies, I’m now considering ways that playing Words With Friends could be played cooperatively to help boost our intelligence while we play. We can ask what letters other players have, and offer to help find ways to place their words on the board. We can also share with others when we feel stuck, and wonder if perhaps they might see something we’re missing. We can focus attention on our combined point totals for each game, rather than our individual score, or whether we won or lost a particular game. Most of all, we can stretch our ability to think by constantly keeping in mind how what we do can help make things better for everyone. And the more I think about it, the more important such cooperation seems to me.
I hope you’ll enjoy watching and sharing my YouTube video summary of How You Play Words with Friends Can Help Boost Your IQ–and please feel free to leave comments either on this blog or on my YouTube video page!
Thinking about new ways to bring cooperation into everything we do certainly does stretch the imagination–and clearly that’s a good thing, in more ways than one. And all of this helps expand what we imagine possible when we contemplate my favorite meditative question, “How good can it get?!”