What Your Wordle Strategy Says About You, According to Experts

People's Wordle strategies could reflect their behavior in other day-to-day situations, according to a cognitive neuroscientist.

Wordle, the web-based game that gives players six chances to guess a five-letter word using nothing but trial and error, has soared in popularity this year.

Created by Welsh software developer Josh Wardle in the Autumn of 2021 and now owned by The New York Times Company, Wordle went from 90 daily users in November to around two million by early January, according to The Guardian.

The below graphic, from Statista, shows the rapid growth of Wordle in recent months.

Wordle Use Stats

The game's popularity was spurred by the addition of a share function that allows users to show their final Wordle layout on social media without giving the answer away.

Aside from that, the game keeps users keen by limiting players to one word per day, preventing fans from binging, and giving them something to look forward to the next day.

The simple function of Wordle means that players can approach each day's puzzle in any way they like. Perhaps they'll choose to get as many vowels out of the way as they can as soon as possible; perhaps they'll start with an oddball word on the off chance that the word is an unusual one.

Either way, each approach carries with it an element of risk, and according to professor Catherine Loveday, a cognitive neuroscience expert at the University of Westminster in the U.K., who specializes in memory research, each approach might well reflect more than just each player's Wordle strategy.

She thinks that there are two main factors that influence how people approach puzzle games like Wordle: one is their cognitive profile, and the other is their cognitive style.

Cognitive profile is things like how fast they process information, how many things they can remember at once or "working memory", and simply how many words they know.

How good someone is at Wordle will generally reflect their cognitive profile, Loveday told Newsweek, adding that this same factor also shapes how we approach most other tasks.

Working memory, for instance, is a particularly important skill for Wordle, Loveday added.

She said: "This is the ability to temporarily hold and manipulate information in short-term memory; a typical example of everyday working memory is the ability to remember a set of instructions or directions, and to hold these in mind while acting on them.

"Wordle relies very heavily on working memory. You have to be able to hold in mind the letters you already know are right, move them into alternative spots and then hold in mind different combinations of the letters still available to you, and then assess whether each of these makes a viable word.

"So someone with good working memory will find Wordle easier, although someone with poorer working memory could get around this by using pen and paper to work through the alternatives."

However, there is the other main factor—cognitive style. Cognitive style takes into account our personalities, our history, our tendencies to be either impulsive or reflective, logical or divergent.

"All of these things can be reflected in other ways in general life, so for example someone who is reflective and considered when they do Wordle are also more likely to take this approach to life more generally," said Loveday.

For instance, they may take longer to make decisions day-to-day because they tend to spend more time thinking things through with a head-over-heart approach.

"On the other hand, someone who makes very snap decisions in Wordle may tend to do this more in real life—going with their gut and instinct and maybe taking more risks but being quicker and using more heuristics," Loveday added.

She stressed, however, that these are big generalizations and it's important to note that the factors work together. For example, someone might reach an answer very quickly not because they impulsively rushed there but because of their working memory and mental dictionary—at the same time, others may well get the answer quickly because they rushed there.

In other words, some people are simply more likely to take risks.

"I am certain that different people have different Wordle strategies and that some of these strategies are more systematic and others involve shot-in-the-dark guessing," Samuel McClure, head of the Decision Neuroscience Lab in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, told Newsweek.

"The same person may be more or less risky depending on how patient they are feeling at the moment or how quickly they want to get through it that day.

"One form of risk taking is impulsively acting without fully considering the consequences. People may enter words quickly, potentially repeating letters that they should know are wrong or that are repetitive. My teenage son says to just enter a few random words and be done with it. This is high risk."

Whatever your strategy, the one thing most players can probably agree on is this: keep the answer to yourself.

Someone plays Wordle on their phone in this photo taken in New York City on January 12, 2022. The game has become hugely popular this year. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

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