Like so many others on the fun, quick games bandwagon, my partner and I are regular players of Wordle. We’ve been playing for 20 days, and we each have 20 wins. In Wordle, you’re guessing the identity of that day’s five-letter word, and you get six tries. Just type in a valid word, and it tells you whether you’ve gotten any letters correct and in the correct spot (green), correct but not yet where it belongs (yellow-ish), or not in the word at all (grey). Then, use that information and try again.
You can share your process and success with your friends without spoilers, too. Today I did:
The game keeps track of how many times you’ve eventually gotten the word right, and how many tries it’s taken you. You can then calculate the average number of tries. His average is just under four tries, and mine is just over four tries. The game does not display a very different metric – how long it takes you to solve the puzzle. If it did, I’d be way ahead of him, because I zip right through it, whereas he’s careful and methodical.
Basically, we’re using different thinking styles – as Daniel Kahneman succinctly put it in the title of his 2011 book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Keith Stanovich and Richard West named the two styles System 1 and System 2, where System 1 is relatively automatic and intuitive, and System 2 is more deliberate and systematic. People always use System 1, but we can choose to devalue what it tells us in favor of System 2.
This applies to everyone, even experts. Doctors are as intuitive as anyone, especially when meeting a new patient with familiar symptoms. They run the most typically useful tests and prescribe the treatment that experience has told them is most likely to be effective. At least at the first visit, they simply don’t have the time to invest in a full-scale investigation (though it’s so satisfying when they do – see Lisa Sanders’s “Diagnosis” column on medical mysteries, in the New York Times). That’s always a challenge for science – our initial reactions are usually pretty well informed, so it takes an effort to set that aside to be open to new possibilities.
With Wordle, I take an intuitive approach, usually choosing an initial word with at least two non-U vowels and some subset of T, N, R, S, L, and D. I’m not playing on hard-mode, where you have to keep using the non-incorrect letters in all subsequent guesses, so if I only get one correct letter I might try something completely different the next time. For example, ALERT first, then SOUND. Once I’ve narrowed it down, I’ll then go with any word that fits the parameters and isn’t too low-probability.
This is not my partner’s approach. He chooses a first word much like I do, but he does play on hard Continue reading