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Games Science

Super Scrabble Players Have Unusual Brains 142

An anonymous reader writes "Being a competitive Scrabble player apparently warps your brain, in a good way, according to researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada. At the high level of the game, players quickly judge whether words, or possible words are real based in large part on their visual stimuli — not an inherent knowledge of the word or its meaning. 'These findings indicate that Scrabble players are less reliant on the meaning of words to judge whether or not they are real, and more flexible at word recognition using orthographic information. ... Competitive Scrabble players are visual word recognition experts and their skill pushes the bounds of what we previously considered the end-point of development of the word recognition system.'"
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Super Scrabble Players Have Unusual Brains

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  • What nonsense. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @09:21PM (#37125206)
    How is recognizing a valid word without knowing anything about it useful, outside of Scrabble and similar contrivances? I watched Word Wars [] some years ago about competition Scrabble players, and let me tell you, these are not smart people. They are people who have dumped all of their lives and meager talents into memorizing all the "valid" seven character patterns in English. They don't know meanings, they are not particularly literate, they just know what pattern of characters is valid and what pattern isn't. I don't think this is particularly praiseworthy, and to try to look at it physiologically as a special positive aspect seems to me to be in denial of who these people really are what limited abilities they truly have.
  • by codesherpa ( 2025264 ) on Wednesday August 17, 2011 @09:47PM (#37125332)
    I recently wrote an application to find the best location to play a word for scrabble thinking it would be an easy task, boy was I wrong. Sure, finding the highest scoring word for the letters on your rack was straightforward, tricky, but straightforward (the key is to think of the board and your letters as an organization of tiles rather than words). But then I wanted it to compete with an existing application like Quackle and I started to realize how difficult it would be.

    Pro's are constantly analyzing the board and thinking about their opponent's next turn as well as their own next turn. On every possible turn they think about stuff like not leaving words that can be hooked with an 's', not leaving a rack with duplicate letters or a rack with too many vowels or consonants, not leaving words open to be played next to premium locations, when to play or keep Q's and blanks, how to be the first one out, and a bunch of even more complicated stuff. Oh, and don't forget that they still have to find all the words that can be made from their letters and the open locations on the board. Memorizing the better part of 180,000 words seems like the easy part.

    The fact that pro's can do all of that in their head is pretty amazing. I have no problem saying that the top scrabble players are equal in their ability to chess grandmasters.

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