You can't avoid it these days - Wordle is everywhere. Social media is peppered with people's results, it's the topic of talk shows, and even SNL did a parody of it - essentially baptizing Wordle as a part of American culture.
It's a phenomenon that has caught fire - and media everywhere are trying to figure out why. That's why when the Washington Post was trying to spell out just what makes Wordle so enticing - the reporter contacted Dimitris Xygalatas from UConn to get to the source of this five-letter craze.
In the beginning, Americans created sourdough starters. As people looked for rituals to cope with the early uncertainties of the pandemic, many bought Peloton bikes, built gardens and watched “Tiger King.”
And in Brooklyn, a software engineer said: “Let there be Wordle!” And there was Wordle. Big-time.
In recent weeks, the online game has become a kind of ritual for its players, who pilgrimage daily to a website to solve a five-letter puzzle. After completing the game, many share their score with their friends, along with the grid of yellow and green squares that show how many tries it took them to solve the puzzle. The game with no ads was created in late 2021 by Josh Wardle for his partner as a way to kill time during the pandemic.
Humans’ brains are designed for pattern-seeking in order to help us make sense of the world, said Dimitris Xygalatas, an anthropologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Connecticut. When humans aren’t able to find patterns, we can experience stress, he said. Something like doing Wordle daily can give people a sense of regularity and a sense of control.
Xygalatas’s studies have found that people who participate in collective rituals have lower levels of cortisol that correspond with lower stress and are often able to build social-support networks. This is why, he said, communal rituals — such as cheering for health-care workers from apartment balconies — took off in the early months of the pandemic.
“Our mind craves regularity,” he said. “It’s one of the main ways we try to fight anxieties.”
Professor Xygalatas is an anthropologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Connecticut who specializes in some of the things that make us human, including ritual, sports, music, cooperation, and the interaction between cognition and culture.
He is available to speak with media, answering all your Wordle questions. Click on his icon to arrange an interview today.
Dimitris Xygalatas, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Anthropology
Dr. Xygalatas' research focuses on ritual, sports, bonding, and the things that make us human.