IIf you looked at my Google search history (which I would obviously never let anyone do), an alarming percentage of it would consist of variations of, “Is X really good for you?” X being the bad habit I’m engaged in. The amazing thing about the internet is that you can always find a random study that backs up anything. Is Netflix binge-watching really good for you? Why yes, experts said it’s a healthy way to de-stress. Is being a night owl who hits the snooze button 15 times every morning a sign that you’re a genius? Why yes, a 2009 study found that smart kids are more likely to become nocturnal adults.
My latest adventures in confirmation bias center around puzzles. At the start of the pandemic, everyone was obsessed with 1,000-piece puzzles; they were stealing from the shelves like toilet paper. Losers, I thought at the time. Why would someone over eight and under 108 bother to piece together a stupid picture? You know what comes next: I reached the stage of pandemic desperation where I became addicted to puzzles. My idea of a wild night now is crouching on a table, rummaging through a cardboard box and saying “Ooh!” when I locate the correct part. Depressingly, it also seems like I’ve reached an age where it’s possible to strain a neck muscle from an over-enthusiastic jigsaw.
So, is my latest hobby a complete waste of time? My partner says yes; science says no. Research suggests that puzzles can help increase concentration and sharpen your memory. And, according to one study, doing puzzles “demands multiple visuospatial cognitive abilities and is a protective factor in visuospatial cognitive aging.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds like a great excuse to order another puzzle.