# Functional Fixedness and Scrabble (and other similar 3rd party games)

I am proud to say that I recently have overcome a serious case of functional fixedness and a mental set at the same time!

By now, the Zynga game "Words With Friends" has become extremely popular on facebook. It is a board game that involves scoring points by making words crossword-style while also using bonus spaces that boost the points, either for an individual letter or for an entire word. Rarely used letters are worth more points, but clever use of the bonus spaces can equally boost your score. So there are multiple options to solve the problem of scoring a whole load of points and beating your friends.

Here was my situation: My letters were arranged in front of me to form the word "vessel" in combination with letters already on the board. V is worth 5 points, and the word used up a lot of letters. However, I couldn't play this word with the V on a "double letter tile." I stared at the board for 10 minutes, trying to find a good word to use V in, since it scores so high. I scrambled the letters in front of me, and saw that I could make "saddles." Now this would score a lot less (the entire word is only worth 10 points), but I could play it over two "double word" tiles, which quadruples my score to 40 points!

In this example, the letter V was part of my mental set. I was convinced I had to use it. The functional fixedness was on the ordering of the letters. Because I had started thinking with words beginning with V, I never thought to start a word with S until I scrambled them up. I find that when coming up with words, whether for a board game, an essay, or a poem, the longer I have to think about it, the more problems I have with mental sets and functional fixedness.

I love/enjoy playing scrabble. Ever since I was introduced every time boardgames come around I just want to play scrabble. Truth is, its no fun with crappy letters and players who can't spell right much. But yeah I get the same problem sometimes where I'll just be thinking of one word and then later realized I could've been working on a different word for more points.

I often focus on a single letter as well while playing a friendly game of the Words With a Friend. Sometimes you just got to put it away and come back to it later after you clear your mind of focusing solely on the a single letter. Approach it a different way.

I truly enjoyed reading your blog post. I didn't realize it much until now, but I run into the same problem almost every time I play Words With Friends. Especially when my opponent has more points then me, I find myself in a mental set, thinking I have to quickly use up my letter "Q" or "J" to boost my score. I think I will notice this much more now when I'm playing these types of games.

This was a great example of both functional fixedness and mental sets. Not only in Scrabble and Words With Friends but more often times than not, we seem to be stuck in mindsets that prevent us from growing. While this also applies to me when I play these games, I think my learning style is evidence of this as well, I usually am stuck only doing what helped me succeed in previous years rather than trying something new if my old techniques didn't work.
Back on topic, I enjoyed your view, great example!

I can absolutely relate to this. I've often run into the same problem with not only words with friends, but also with things like word finds where the creators will but letters similar to the ones in the word you are looking for all grouped together to distract you from the word you are actually looking for.