Brain teasers are exercises which are designed to stimulate cognitive function, encouraging the brain to work to complete the exercise. While many people like to do brain teasers for fun, these simple exercises have other uses. Neurologists, for example, often utilize them when they work with patients and try to arrive at a diagnosis, and teachers often use them in the classroom as educational tools.
Some studies also seem to suggest that doing brain teasers can actually help to keep the mind more fit. In older adults, people who do brain teasers tend to perform better on a variety of tasks related to cognitive function, and this improvement is most consistently seen in people who exercise their brains on a regular basis. The old man who does the crossword every morning, in other words, is improving his cognitive function in addition to passing the time.
These exercises can be structured in a number of ways. Generally, they take the form of puzzles which must be solved. The puzzles may be visual, as in the case of pattern recognition games, or they may involve plays on words and numbers. Logic puzzles are also brain teasers. Working with logic puzzles can immensely improve mental acuity and deductive reasoning, as these types of puzzles require people to carefully analyze and interpret information to get the right answer.
Many brain teasers are designed to be completed as solo exercises, but they can be done as groups as well. Educational puzzles often encourage a group effort, so that children develop bonds with each other and learn cooperative techniques which can serve them in good stead later in life. Working cooperatively can also be less frustrating for people who struggle with brain teasers, as the group effort may be able to solve a puzzle which a single person could not finish.
In the case of logic puzzles, it is not uncommon for multiple answers to occur. The ability to recognize multiple answers and to pick the one which is the most logical, given the available information, is a valuable skill. Many standardized tests use logic puzzles to test the experience and skills of people taking the exam, especially in the case of tests which are used in admissions materials to colleges, as critical thinking is viewed as an important skill for students.
Here's a simple brain teaser for you which involves five young men who participate in a foot race. James comes in before George, but after Charles. John places ahead of Charles, and after Matthew. Given this information, you should be able to order the race results from first to last.