I learned about a cool new game last week. If you’re a fan of Wordle, Nerdle, Octordle and the many variations, you may want to check out Heardle. Like the many variations of these -DLE games, you’re given a number of chances to guess the correct answer. Instead of figuring out a word or a country or an equation, however, users try to figure out a song. The game is easy to use, but really hard to master. For each category (I’m a fan of Heardle 90s), the game will provide a short snippet of a song and you can take a guess. If you’re wrong, you get a little more of the song to hear. It’s a lot of fun. And honestly, pretty addictive.
I learned about the game last week at a retreat I was on with some science colleagues. During a break, one colleague pulled up the Heardle 80s game on their phone and played the first snippet. Our group started throwing out ideas. The conversation went something like this.
“It sounds like that one Irish band, what was their name?”
“U2? That doesn’t sound like U2.”
“No, that other Irish band.”
“Hold on, are you thinking it’s Van Morrison? It’s definitely not Van Morrison.”
“No, the band that does ‘The Boys are Back in Town.’ What was their name?”
“You mean Thin Lizzy? It does sound like them. What’s the other hit song they have?”
And then someone started humming potential lyrics, inserting nonsensical words into the mix. Before the next snippet of the song was even needed, someone exclaimed, “It’s Jailbreak! The song is Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy.”
The colleague typed in “Jailbreak” and Heardle confirmed that our group was right. We had won our first Heardle on our very first attempt.
Since that retreat, I’ve played Heardle (and its variations) multiple times on my own. Overall, I haven’t been as lucky as when our group did it collectively. Sure, I guessed “Dancing Queen by ABBA” on the first snippet in the Heardle Movies and Musicals a few days ago, but that’s a pretty iconic song and easily recognizable. Otherwise, I’m usually struggling through multiple snippets and guesses, before eventually getting the song wrong.
The differences between processing alone and processing as a group made me think about a section of a book I read recently. I just finished How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion by David McRaney. In a chapter on Arguing, McRaney shares research done with a cognitive reasoning test. The test is comprised of questions like: “If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machine to make 100 widgets?” Summarizing the research, McRaney writes:
“Reasoning alone, 83 percent of people who have taken this text under laboratory conditions answer at least one of these sorts of questions incorrectly, and a third get all of them wrong. But in groups of three or more, no one gets any wrong. At least one member always sees the correct answer, and the resulting debate leads those who are wrong to change their minds.” (pg. 197)
Switching gears a bit, I know there’s a lot of talk about how polarized society is. But it’s clear that diversity in thought and experiences and the ability to collectively discuss and debate stuff is what helps us reach better decisions. It doesn’t just help with reasoning tests, guessing songs on Heardle, or answering trivia questions. It’s for the collective good. The real challenge is fostering trusting environments where those debates and discussions can happen.
McRaney, D. (2022). How minds change: the surprising science of belief, opinion, and persuasion. Penguin.