The hard-easy effect
With the pressure of escape, your mind may work to overcomplicate the puzzles. Your team might miss the obvious answers by looking for something more abstract.
We often think into the future, planning the next steps ahead. In these rooms events can quickly steer away from what we thought we were working towards. The brain is forced to act quick to modify planned behaviour.
Thinking outside the box
Getting the job done is easier to do when you know what you’re doing. The challenge of escape rooms is accessing new areas of the brain. By encouraging the creative problem-solving aspects of our minds, players are not just finding the answers, but discovering what they are answering.
The brain’s stress hormone, cortisol, can be released in these high-intensity situations. Affecting performance, this stress is not ideal for problem solving and can lead to impulse actions and poor memory.
Time is of the essence in escape rooms. Because you are required to think of solutions quickly, the brain may take a mental shortcut. In a strategy called availability heuristic, your brain chooses information that you can think of quickly. Escape rooms have undertaken much planning to present new challenges, and this potential solution will more often than not be the answer.
Some escape rooms go to greater lengths to immerse you in the story than others. In the more believable examples, you can begin to convince yourself of the need to escape. When the body is flooded with adrenaline, it can focus the brain and help it perform quicker.
You’ve got an inkling of where the clues are taking you and are determined to find other clues that follow the same path. This is called selective perception and might cause you to overlook other vital and unexpected clues.
While clues and answers are dispersed around the room, they are likely to come together in the end. In order to solve the steps, players must keep each finding in the back of their mind. You never know when links between them will need to be made.