Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

The Psychology of Game Playing: Creating Good Habits & Having Great Thoughts

Puzzle by Billy Alexander

Puzzle by Billy Alexander

This week I want to really explore how taking a playful approach to your conscious and unconscious pursuits can be so successful.

I have posted on a number of occasions on this subject matter, including on:

– The use of simple games/ tools to get things done or shift habits

‘Choice architecture’ to nudge to change

Unconsciously restricting time to create focused creativity

Thoughts on the ‘why’ of the success of using simple games to shift habits have included:

  • Does game playing lessen the ‘weight’ of the reactive response? Does it remove resistance because the new routine to be adopted is being done so as a game/ challenge as opposed to a mental challenge? It is therefore made ‘neutral’ by the game. – How Easily Simplicity tips into Bad Habits
  • By accepting our ‘peopleness’ and suggesting rather than telling we have greater success in change. – Nudge Yourself to Change
  • We don’t like being told what to do. Using a simple ‘light-touch approach’ to change hooks you into change easier that having a great set of ‘worthy’ reasons why the change is good. – Good Habits, Bad Habits and the Breaking of Both

But, to be honest, I’ve only really scratched the surface and I’m intrigued as to the why for the following reasons:

  1. It appears to be such a simple technique, but so effective: I’ve been trying the ‘chaining’ techniques to create a good habit for the last seventeen days and it seems so easy compared to the top-down, more intellectually heavy approaches
  2. It potentially sheds light on a common over-weighting that we apply to our intelligence/ conscious importance etc. which I think it would be healthier re-evaluate
  3. It appears that a ‘playfulness’ of mind can also hugely contribute to creative thinking:

On this latter point, it was my further reading of Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain Tortoise Mind that tipped me into concentrating this week on this subject:

750 trials on ten year olds by Ceci and Bronfenbrenner in 1985 endeavoured to get them to predict the direction and distance a shape on a computer screen would jump. The pattern could have been predicted by the shape: e.g. squares always went to the right etc.  After the 750 trials where they looked at shapes and tried to click the point on the screen it would move to with the cursor, they had learnt virtually nothing.

However ‘after making a small change to the task, which had no effect at all on its logical difficulty, things looked very different. All the experimenters did was replace the three geometrical shapes (squares, circles and triangles) with animals (birds, bees and butterflies); swap the normal computer cursor for an image of a ‘net’; add some sound effects; and tell the children that this was a game in which they had to try catch the animals as they moved.’

After less than half as many goes the children were placing the net in the right position to ‘capture’ the animals with ‘near-perfect accuracy’ 

Claxton goes on to refer to ways of knowing that was ‘patient, playful and mysterious’

I want to explore how and why playfulness and games both help deliver personal change and also enable creativity and problem solving.

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2 thoughts on “The Psychology of Game Playing: Creating Good Habits & Having Great Thoughts

  1. Pingback: Psychology of Game Playing: thoughts from the blogosphere « Just Seven Things

  2. Pingback: Personal Development for Smart People Forums

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