Mind Games 1

It's the most complex, intricate piece of machinery in the known universe, yet most of us pay more attention to maintaining our cars.

"Machinery" is too clunky a word to do it justice. “Supercomputer” is better, but even that doesn't come close. Your brain is where You live. When it fails, not only are all your physical and mental skills in jeopardy, but the very essence of who you are.

We sensed a serious gap on Health24. We have hundreds of exercises for the body, but few directly for the mind. And we need them: a lively, curious brain, regularly exposed to challenge and novelty, and free from depression and anxiety, may be a potent weapon against age-related mental decline and dementia.

So we've opened a Mind Games section for regular workouts. We're starting with some great traditional brain teasers to get those neural connections sparking. In the weeks ahead we'll be adding more tips and tricks gleaned from neuroscience and psychology.

Let the mind games begin!

Riddles and puzzles are fun - but they also stretch your brain and make you look at things from a different angle. Here are some classic puzzles that test your brain’s ability to think creatively, logically and visually.

Lateral thinking
“Lateral thinking” means problem-solving using an indirect, unexpected and creative approach. The term was first used by writer Edward de Bono in his 1967 book, New Think: The Use of Lateral Thinking.

1. Murder mystery


The police get a phone call telling them a murderer is at a particular address. All they know about the culprit is his name: Wayne. When they get to the house, they find four people: a truck driver, a fireman, a mechanic and a carpenter. Without knowing what the murderer looks like, they arrest the fireman. Why? See answer

2. Shared birthday


A woman has two daughters. They were both born in the same year, on the same day, in the same hour. But they’re not twins. How is this possible? See answer

 3. Gun sense


A woman walks into a bar and asks the barman for a glass of water. The barman pulls out a gun and points it at the woman. She thanks him and leaves. What happened? See answer

4. Lift or stairs?

A man lives on the tenth floor of a building. Every day he goes down in the lift to go to work, but when he gets back he only takes the lift to the seventh floor, then gets out and walks the rest of the way. Why? See answer

Visual skills
These puzzles give your visualisation skills and eye-brain connection a workout.

5. Perfect equality


Your eccentric aunt Matilda gives you a delicious chocolate cake for your birthday – on condition that you only use three cuts to slice it up. You have to share the cake equally between eight people at the party. How do you manage it? See answer

6. The Stroop Test

Out loud, as fast as you can, name the colours in which these words are printed. Time yourself.

Green Blue Red Purple Blue Purple

Now do the same with this list:

Blue Green Purple Red Purple Green

Notice the difference?

Get the answers

- Compiled by Olivia Rose-Innes and Senora Sine Thirteen, Health24, July 2011

Stroop, John Ridley (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology 18 (6): 643–662.

Do you have a great brain teaser? Please send it to us and we'll feature it on Mind Games.

More Mind Games

Read more:
10 magic brain tricks
Test: Do you have a memory problem?

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