Usually, players write down the next word by merely using the first word that comes to their mind after they hear the previous one. Sometimes however they may put in more thought to find a more creative connection between the words. Exchanges are often fast and sometimes unpredictable (though logical patterns can usually be found without difficulty). Sometimes, a lot of the game's fun can arise from the seemingly strange or amusing associations that people make between words. It is also found amusing what you can get from an original word, and how they contrast distinctly, for example, from the word "tea" you could get the word "murder".
The game can be played actively or passively, sometimes taking many weeks to complete, and can in fact be played with any number of players, even one. Example: Soda, Sprite, Fairy, Tinkerbell, Peter Pan, Pot and pans, Kitchens, Refrigerator, Drinks, Soda
A game based on the Word Association game which is sometimes popular for informal social gatherings is Bobsledding.
Dog, Cat, Fur, Coat, Enshroud, Night, Eye, Heart, Love, Hate, ...
Often, the game's goal is to compare the first and final word, to see if they relate, or to see how different they are, or also to see how many words are repeated. Likewise, players often review the list of words to see the pathways of associations that go from beginning to end.
Certain popular psychologists like Derren Brown have shown an ability to predict people's word associations, and some suggest that humans actually find it very difficult to disassociate words such that they become more predictable when told to do so. For instance, the aforementioned Derren Brown once predicted two words in a sequence of "disassociated" words made by a professional psychologist (after failing twice). Notably, the man disassociated the word "school" with "tie", where the actual association is quite clear.
Word association has been used by market researchers to ensure the proper message is conveyed by names or adjectives used in promoting a company's products. For example, James Vicary, working in the 1950's, tested the word 'lagered' for a brewing company. While about a third of his subjects associated the word with beer, another third associated it with tiredness, dizzyness and so forth. As a result of the study, Vicary's client decided not to use the word.
Word association dates back to Avicenna, in the 11th century, who developed a system for associating changes in the pulse rate with inner feelings, which is seen as an anticipation of the word association test. He treated a very ill patient afflicted with love sickness (Ishq) by "feeling the patient's pulse and reciting aloud to him the names of provinces, districts, towns, streets, and people." He noticed how the patient's pulse increased when certain names were mentioned, from which Avicenna deduced that the patient was in love with a girl whose home Avicenna was able to locate through this examination. Avicenna advised the patient to marry the girl he is in love with, and the patient soon recovered from his illness after his marriage.
In the early years of psychology, many doctors noted that patients exhibited behavior that they were not in control of. Some part of the personality seemed to have an influence on that person's behavior that was not in his/her conscious control. This part was, by function, unconscious, and became so named the Unconscious. Carl Jung theorized that people connect ideas, feelings, experiences and information by way of associations.....that ideas and experiences are linked, or grouped, in the unconscious in such a manner as to exert influence over the individual’s behavior. These groupings he named Complexes.
The quest for the early analysts was how to access and free the contents of the unconscious. Early methods of this treatment included hypnosis, dream analysis, and word association. Word association research started as a psychological science with Darwin's cousin, Sir Francis Galton, who thought that there might be a link between a person's I.Q. (intelligence quotient) and word associations. A typical association is such: if I say "cat", you might say "dog". This indicates that you associate dog with cat, a common association. A common "association test" would be list of trigger words that the person being tested would respond to as quickly as possible. Often these responses were timed, and it became obvious that certain words could cause a considerable delay in the individual's response. Sir Francis was unable to find a direct link between intelligence and word association, however Jung became curious about the time delay that occurred in responding to certain words. Jung theorized that the delay between stimulus and response indicated some sort of block in self expression. One type of block might be that too many possible answers rush to the surface and create a sort-of expression log-jam, and that one is unable to answer until one sorts out all the possible answers. Another possibility is that the individual feels “uncomfortable” with the response, or that the response is “inappropriate”, thus they resist expressing the answer. This resistance to answer is part of the phenomena that Freud described as repression.