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Super Scrabble Players Have Unusual Brains

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the Timothy-explained dept.

Games 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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142 comments

Cause and Effect? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125024)

Does being a competitive Scrabble player warp your brain, or are those with warped brains more likely to become competitive Scrabble players?

Re:Cause and Effect? (1)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125216)

I think it's a little of both, but mainly the former. One adapts to their environment, and playing Scrabble requires you to see words differently than most. Similarly, if you play enough Game! [wittyrpg.com] you'll start seeing puns in everything!

Re:Cause and Effect? (2)

RackinFrackin (152232) | more than 2 years ago | (#37128132)

One adapts to their environment, and playing Scrabble requires you to see words differently than most.

Indeed. The development of this ability in hardcore Scrabble players is similar to the Tetris effect [wikipedia.org] .

Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. Derp! (1, Offtopic)

kdawson (3715) (1344097) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125232)

Ive said this and ill say it again! When I was 14 I went deep sea fishing with my g/f Jody. I was 14 and she was 19. Well it so happened that my dad who was captaining the boat was drinking a lot of beer like 2 packs of 12 and he fell sound asleep. Me and Jody were bored. So we started making out and it was real hot under the sun and we went down into the cabin and made out more. We fell asleep and when I woke up I found her hands on my giant (approx 13 inch) lovemaker. She started to rub it like a genie bottle and that felt really good. Then she took off my pants and tried to get my meat baton in her mouth but kinda choked on it. By that time I was starting to feel REAL good. So I told her to take off her bra and she said "I have to take off my shirt first silly!". So she took off her shirt and bra and rubbed my erect sausage all over her 34DD nicely tanned boobies. At that time I spurted clear stuff all over her and she laughed. This made me brake up in tears because it looked like I wasnt a man enough for her or something and then she started telling me "No thats not what I meant!!" and started making out again. So after another 10 minutes of making out we started getting hard. She took off her pants and told me to lay down. I laid down with my 13" woman pleaser sticking right up and she lowered down on to me till I was fully inserted into her birth canal. So I lasted like 30 seconds and shot like a rocket into her and bodily fluids were gushing everywhere. She looked like she was going to laugh again and I was like Im gonna punch you in the ovaries and she really started laughing then so I pushed her on her belly and rammed my meat roll in and out of her till she SCREAMED "OH RODNEY! OH KEITH! OH RODNEY! YES YES YES!" and then my dad woke up and saw what was going on and told us to finish up. I tried to finish but was too embarrassed. She joked about "DP" but said she was only joking. When I put my clothes back on and went back to the deck my dad told me he arranged a prostitute and she was never my g/f the entire time!

Re:Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. De (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125284)

I always knew kdawson was a troll. But when did he lose his job as a Slashdot editor?

Re:Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. De (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125452)

I've got to wonder why they let people put () in their names like that, for that alone I commend this troll for actually making me think for a minute about what the hell is going on here.

Re:Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. De (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125526)

I've got to wonder why they let people put () in their names like that, for that alone I commend this troll for actually making me think for a minute about what the hell is going on here.

stupid people are not very observant. they don't pay attention. stupid people make posts about how they thought the title said something different and other stupid people mod them up for it. stupid people get fooled very easily by the most trivial of things. stupid people would actually need to pause to think about this troll's name if it occurs to them to notice it at all.

just about the only things stupid people are very good at doing are breeding, and blaming other people for their failures in life. most of modern politics revolves around these two things, directly or indirectly just because stupid people exist in such large numbers. thanks to the public indoctrination/schooling system even people who aren't stupid have lost their ability to easily and readily think, it is no longer the most natural thing in the world to them, they view it as work to be avoided whenever possible.

this explains the vast majority of tech support calls when all the answers they need are written for a 3rd-grade reading level in several different documents available to them but they'd rather wait on hold for 30 minutes to get some handholding because they are helplessly dependent on other people to provide answers for them.

they probably let people put parantheses in their names because this is one of the few sites not specifically designed for stupid people, although lots of them are trying very hard to change that. i have no idea why we as a society would ever want to make idiocy comfortable and managable especially since burdening someone who is not an idiot is just about the only way to do that. all the liberals who whine endlessly about "social justice" seem to have overlooked how much this happens. but helping the hell out of people who are not really helpless to spare them the 5 minutes of research it takes to get a clue about something seems to be big business for all the wrong reasons.

Re:Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. De (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125558)

You know what all the stupidest people have in common? They think everyone else is stupid.

Re:Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. De (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125988)

You know what all the stupidest people have in common? They think everyone else is stupid.

if you really cannot grasp that there is a difference between "everyone" and "the average" then you have no business talking about stupidity.

but i get it. i get it better than you would prefer. you are like so many petty people. you want the quick one-liner victory that you don't have to work for. so you find what you think is a slam-dunk "win" and you assume that you are so smart and I am so stupid that you noticed a fatal flaw that I didn't see. if you really think the average person is an intellectual who loves to go the extra mile to learn new things and would rather enjoy finding his own answers to seeking handholding by a stranger, make your argument.

funny thing is, I don't see you doing that.

Re:Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. De (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126294)

*WHOOOSH!*

Re:Herp a derp news! Scrabble playaz R strange. De (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126342)

If you think he missed a joke, you have to be a dumbass. Only dumbasses are so stupid. Dumbasses are so dumb, they think getting at the heart of why the joke was made and why it occurred to that person to make it, is the same thing as failing to get the joke.

I mean no offense to black people or any other race or ethnic group. But you, sir, are a fucking nigger. Good day.

Re:Cause and Effect? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125236)

There certainly might be some weeding on the basis of subtler inherent capabilities lower down in the ranks; but the sheer amount of drill and practice(both playing and hammering at word lists) required to make a good scrabble player suggests a major 'effect' component.

I do find the notion that this is a 'good' development(outside of the environment of scrabble, where it is obviously useful) sort of interesting. When I am reading, the most pleasant, fastest, and most engaged state is when the words become 'transparent' to me. I'm no longer consciously aware of visually scanning the individual words, nor is their any vocal component(audible or subvocalising), the meaning of what I'm reading just sort of flows in, without any consciousness of the intermediate tasks that I have to perform to get it there. The state of immediate visual recognition of real/false, divorced from meaning, sounds like it would be rather distracting while trying to do anything with words that isn't a particular rather abstract word game...

It's like the Stroop effect [washington.edu] tests: some people are better than others at them; but the illiterate knock them out of the park without effort, while the more proficient readers often have great difficulty completing the task instead of just responding to the meaning of the word. Obviously, you aren't likely to become a top tier scrabble player through illiteracy or other serious reading disorder; but I have to wonder if developing this specialized visual facility to such a high pitch detracts from one's general-purpose reading ease.

Re:Cause and Effect? (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126314)

Although interesting, that Stroop Effect online test has to be one of the worst examples of an experiment I've ever seen!

Re:Cause and Effect? (0)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126278)

That would depend on your [C][A][T][H][A][R][I][N][O][S][I][S] and your [S][U][B][L][I][D][U][P][L][A][R][I][E][T][Y].

Re:Cause and Effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37127726)

Does being a competitive FPS player warp your brain, or are those with warped brains more likely to become competitive FPS players?

Re:Cause and Effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37128158)

I have to admit, this flash short [albinoblacksheep.com] had to be created by someone who was significantly warped.

Super Scrabble (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:Super Scrabble (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125162)

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Re:Super Scrabble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125564)

Even worse is that slashdot puts rel="nofollow" on the links, meaning that it doesn't really even help their search ranking.

Definitely Effect. (2)

hamster_nz (656572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125058)

Having read "Word Freaks - : Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players" you can see how the author starts with a writer's perspective on words, and through his attempts to become a competitive player he alters his brain. Towards the end of the book he is seeing anagrams everywhere and words become separated from their meanings...

"Jaxqiz" (n): An unlikely word that is only useful for playing scrabble with.

Re:Definitely Effect. (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125102)

It's similar how a musician listens to music is completely different from someone who doesn't play any sort of instrument. I read an interesting article about it and a few of my friends complain that they can't just listen to new music their brain always has to analyze it.

Re:Definitely Effect. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125112)

Which makes 99% of music more interesting.

Re:Definitely Effect. (1)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125370)

I'd like to know where this world you live in, where 99% of music is more interesting if you analyze it more deeply, is at. Here where I live, listening carefully to all of the pop music released for quite some time now just makes me start screaming for the head of the guy who invented Autotune. The background music at some places nowadays makes me wish for death if I accidentally slip into careful listening.

Re:Definitely Effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125524)

You're just getting old. But seriously almost all good music sounds like shit at first. The same goes for most art. It should make your brain hurt and be something different that what your used to. Of course I think current pop is shit too, but then I'm also getting old.

Re:Definitely Effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125826)

It has nothing to do with him "getting old". Have you heard the radio? It was shit decades ago and it is still shit. It was shit when I was a kid. It's still shit now that I'm not.

Re:Definitely Effect. (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126396)

Every music style has something. It's hard to top the charts without having something at least. Listen to how Kanye alternates themes as well as any Clementi sonatina. Listen to the power in the performance by Rihanna - the sheer, raw emotion of it can be as overwhelming as the emotion of Beethoven's fifth, second movement. Even with auto-tune.....come on, the skill of being able to sing in tune is not the most important skill in entertaining.

Sure, a lot of all music is derivative, and most of it won't survive into the next century. But that is true of every century, the gems are rare. It's there if you know how to listen.

Re:Definitely Effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126696)

You are seriously claiming RIHANNA has any singing skill?

You are fucking tone deaf.

Re:Definitely Effect. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126818)

If you're going to insult someone, at least get your insults right. It has nothing to do with tone-deaf, she uses auto-tune. All her songs are perfectly in tune, can't you hear that?

If you're having trouble hearing the raw Rihanna edge, check out this cover [youtube.com] for a comparison. Notice how much trouble the girl in the cover has dealing with the repeated sequences (where it has the same phrase over and over with different words). In the cover it just falls flat. Rihanna on the other hand manages to drive through and the repetition only makes it more powerful.

And sir, if you can't feel the intensity of 'Love the Way you Lie,' you're emotionally dead inside. What other song captures so well the emotion of murderously disfunctional relationship? If that's not your thing, that that's fine, but the craftsmanship is undeniable.

Re:Definitely Effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37127456)

Not sure if serious...

Re:Definitely Effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37127592)

Ah yes, your opinion is, of course, more valid than any one else, and having listened to halve of one of her songs once, you are clearly in an expert position to comment.

Re:Definitely Effect. (2, Informative)

Stradenko (160417) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125324)

Speaking as a seasoned Scrabble player, I think you mean "definately."

Re:Definitely Effect. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125420)

Speaking as a seasoned Scrabble player, I think you mean "definately."

You must not be very good at scrabble.

Re:Definitely Effect. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126994)

Unless he can convince other players his words are real words, in that case he would be good... [R][D][Y][Q][W][L][U][Z][L][Y] good.

Re:Definitely Effect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125404)

The alterations are useless. Aside from games and parlor tricks, it doesn't assist with learning or processing anything outside Scrabble. Why not spend that effort learning a foreign language? About the same for the brain, and much more useful. Or number games that will help with processing math problems unrelated to the game? Or word games with meaning (crosswords or such)?

Re:Definitely Effect. (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126042)

A bit like learning to roll a kayak, or shoot hoops, or juggling five balls, or programming in assembler, or most things on hack-a-day.

Not at all essential for day to day life, but challenging and fun. And just occasionally you will gain an insight that makes it even more worthwhile.

Or maybe on a kayak trip you might even meet a six foot six basket-baller of the opposite gender who likes somebody who is good with his [juggling] balls and finds computer geeks interesting.... ... but then again the odds are against it.

GPU! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125078)

They've learned to use their GPUs!

So they know how to read. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125106)

It's been a long time since I've had to see words as individual letters to understand them, even if they were unfamiliar.

Re:So they know how to read. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125134)

This isn't about understanding how to read a word; it's about instinctively knowing whether or not a particular group of letters is a real word, without having seen it before or knowing what it means.

Re:So they know how to read. (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125166)

You should be cautioned, I't's more than education, and it can't be auctioned to the highest bidder.

(A top scrabble player would have a smile now - hint: look at the nine letter words).

Re:So they know how to read. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125192)

It's a good job there aren't apostrophes in Scrabble.

Re:So they know how to read. (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125496)

Honest question, I'm not a top scrabble player, so is that why I don't get the significance of them being 9 letter words and not 7? Or is it a cautionary tale about playing the word "ion" in vulnerable areas of the board lest it be co-opted by another player.

Re:So they know how to read. (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125590)

"cautioned", "education", and "auctioned" are all anagrams of each other.

It would be a Scrabbler player's wet dream to have an open 'o'+'n' on the board, and 'a', 'c', ‘d’, ‘e', 'i', 't', 'u' sitting in your tile rack... especially if it was on the bottom row so you could get two triple word scores

Re:So they know how to read. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125600)

Honest question, I'm not a top scrabble player, so is that why I don't get the significance of them being 9 letter words and not 7? Or is it a cautionary tale about playing the word "ion" in vulnerable areas of the board lest it be co-opted by another player.

They're anagrams of each other. cautioned, education, auctioned

Re:So they know how to read. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125614)

They're anagrams, so you could play whichever was possible based on the letters that you had and the ones on the board. "Cautioned" and "auctioned" differ only in the first three letters, but if there's a double or triple letter score multiplier around that part of the board that can make a difference in the score

This isn't amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125116)

People can look at a situation and come to the right "conclusion" all the time. Its not at all miraculous that people can take one look at a math problem or equation and just instinctively know the right answer. This isn't fantastic or special at all. It is simply a function of specialization and repetition. Why would this be special in the case of words versus numbers or anything else? When people can "teach" AI to do the same thing, I'll be impressed.... otherwise... meh... The summary pretty much reads that "People are really good at doing things people can do". Yeah, no shit.

In good way??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125160)

not an inherent knowledge of the word or its meaning.

I don't think this is a good thing. Words are only important because of their meanings. People who put more importance on how the words are spelled then on their meaning are actually at a disadvantage. Words serve no purpose beyond communicating a meaning. I wonder how many of them are compete poets. Yes, I am sure they can rhyme and the like with no problems but can they put meaning beyond that of the words with resorting to anagrams and the like. How many can write novels or even technical manuals??

On interesting thing is it does prove that words are definite pasterns to them.

Re:In good way??? (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125860)

People who put more importance on how the words are spelled then[sic] on their meaning are actually at a disadvantage.

I wonder how many of them are compete[sic] poets.

...but can they put meaning beyond that of the words with[sic] resorting to anagrams and the like.

On[sic] interesting thing is it does prove that words are[sic] definite pasterns[sic] to them.

Captain Irony says: "YOUR HILARIOUS!"

Seriously though, if being a great Scrabble player is what they strive for then whether or not they can write gripping spy thrillers or complex technical documents is completely academic. Their brains are better able to spot patterns than most people's. If this were a story about 100m sprinters whose muscles were "better" than those of "normal people" would you be saying "Yeah, but can they run marathons?"?

There are people (evidently) who are incapable of stringing a sentence together. Some are incapable of spelling even the simplest words. These super scrabble players probably have useful vocabularies comparable to a "normal" person, but they are also able to spot patterns. If Scrabble is your game of choice, then yes, this is a Good Thing.

Re:In good way??? (1)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127036)

would you be saying "Yeah, but can they run marathons?"?

Yes and I frequently do. I find it hard to believe that there is a situation where being able to run 100m in less than 10 seconds is a survival skill. But then I'm an advocate of letting the Olympians use as many drugs as they like to see what the human potential is (and what we can do for our soldiers when we colonize other planets), so maybe I'm not the best person to be actually answering your rhetorical question.

Re:In good way??? (1)

crontabminusell (995652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127486)

I find it hard to believe that there is a situation where being able to run 100m in less than 10 seconds is a survival skill.

It seems to me that running 100m in less than 10 seconds could be a great survival skill - akin to climbing the nearest tree in under 10 seconds - as we haven't always been at the top of the food chain.

What nonsense. (2, Interesting)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125206)

How is recognizing a valid word without knowing anything about it useful, outside of Scrabble and similar contrivances? I watched Word Wars [wikipedia.org] 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.

Re:What nonsense. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125328)

How is recognizing a valid word without knowing anything about it useful, outside of Scrabble and similar contrivances? I watched Word Wars [wikipedia.org] 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.

Being a phenomenal scrabble player is notable in exactly the same way as being a phenomenal sprinter is notable. Good sprinters have also dumped all of their lives into figuring out how to run the fastest under very constrained conditions. Their ability doesn't help them outside of it. By your argument, we should ignore almost all record setters, as the elite in a field are often those who disregard all else.

Instead, we are amazed by sprinters going faster today then medical science previously thought possible. I am amazed by Scrabble players specializing their brains beyond what was thought possible. Whether the act of such dedication to anything is healthy is debatable, but the results are amazing.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125642)

I accept your extension, we should ignore almost all record holders. Wow, that guy is faster than the last guy who was really fast? Who gives a shit. That's not producing anything useful for anybody.

What society needs are innovators, analyzers, synthesizers, and creative minds. Not near zombies who can sort character strings and nothing more, or obsessive musclebound athletes most of whom achieve very little of substance once their physical exploits fade.

I encourage you to also watch Word Wars and see what kind of people we're actually talking about here. We'll see how long your "amazement" lasts in the face of reality.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126052)

My guess is you never read Brave New World. Read that and then come back and tell me that society really should be dictating what people can and cannot do with their lives.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127932)

Who said anything about dictating? Just because I don't value something doesn't mean I want to use the state's monopoly on force to ensure that nobody does it. People must be free to do things that are not valuable in order for there to be any chance of happiness for people in society. By the same token nothing obligates or should force me to value something I think is stupid.

Re:What nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126172)

What society needs are innovators, analyzers, synthesizers, and creative minds. Not near zombies who can sort character strings and nothing more, or obsessive musclebound athletes most of whom achieve very little of substance once their physical exploits fade.***

*** CITATION REQUIRED

But otherwise, good. Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

FunkSoulBrother (140893) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126458)

Word Wars was a not very exciting documentary about tournament Scrabble produced by a tournament Scrabble player, mostly about his layabout friends on the East Coast. He picked bizarre personalities on purpose.

I play tournament Scrabble, decidedly not at the expert level, but I can tell you that while we're all a quirky group of people, for the most part there is a good mix of educated professionals amongst the guys that have to bunk 4 a room at a tournament because they can't hold a job lest it affect their character string study. A lot of CS/programmer types too, Scrabble being the pattern / board positions / probability game that it is.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127968)

Word Wars was focused on people who were or had a reasonable chance of becoming tournament champions. I don't disagree that there are tournament players who are balanced people and good citizens, but at the absolute "top" of the game it's misfits and whackjobs.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127020)

What society needs are innovators, analyzers, synthesizers, and creative minds. Not near zombies who can sort character strings and nothing more, or obsessive musclebound athletes most of whom achieve very little of substance once their physical exploits fade.

Athletes do serve a purpose in society; entertainment. Just the sheer magnitude of sports coverage on TV should make it clear that athletes enterain a lot of people. And seeing as you are reading and commenting on Slashdot about scrabble players - something without any obvious merit to society - surely you will understand the value of entertainment.
Top scrabble player provide some entertainment to other scrabble players. In this sense they like the athletes, but for a much smaller group of spectators.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 2 years ago | (#37128176)

While I agree that entertainment has value, at the same time I think it is frequently overvalued, and that entertainers of all stripes are overpaid in the top tier. Hollywood actors and pro athletes/sports players are not doing things that should merit millions of dollars. However because their simple talents engage simple minds, uncountable boors fling their meager earnings at the feet of these panderers, exchanging any hope of achieving personal comfort and security through diligence and thrift for the thrill of the success of some proxy's exploits and lifestyle built upon such waste.

Nothing is going to convince me that it is beneficial to society that most people seem to aspire only to have enough credit to finagle the biggest possible TV on which to watch "the big game" and Jersey Shore.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127638)

The contest and constraints are a lot less artificial for sprinters. Sure the 100m distance is pretty arbitrary, but changing it to 80m or 120m wouldn't make a lot of difference to who won. Whereas scrabble is just about one particular arbitrary set of rules that the original inventors picked.

Re:What nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125352)

I think you sound like an asshole.

Re:What nonsense. (1)

greg1104 (461138) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125358)

At what point did you read the article suggesting that these skills were useful or implied "smart"? Saying that players are better at word recognition than researchers thought was possible is not implying word recognition has any particular value.

Re:What nonsense. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125396)

I'm a graphic designer, it comes in very handy. At work I catch a lot of mistakes that would have otherwise gone to print. Sometimes while quickly glancing at a page, incorrect words will just stick out to me, even without directly reading them. Sometimes we get medical terms or other words I'm not familiar with and the computer spellchecker doesn't have either, and I usually have a good hunch one way or the other.

Re:What nonsense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126008)

I watched Word Wars [wikipedia.org] some years ago about competition Scrabble players, and let me tell you, these are not smart people.

I watched a documentary series about the Deep South some years ago and let me tell you, those people are not smart.

Now, perhaps you'd be better off reading the (short) article than tearing down strawmen?

Causation? (2)

GlenMac (979257) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125260)

Is being a competitive scrabble player causing the brain to warp? Or is having this 'warped' brain a general advantage to becoming a competitive scrabble player?

Career pros found to have specialized skills! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125304)

In other news, university researchers were found to be far above average in securing taxpayer-funded grant money, and in booking expenses-paid junkets to academic conferences in faraway resort towns.

A new respect for players (4, Interesting)

codesherpa (2025264) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:A new respect for players (1)

cmaxx (7796) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127472)

Lots of 'not's there.. sometimes it's a good thing to leave those things open - to open up the board, and get an opportunity for yourself from your opponent's next play. I've seen boards shut down to a stalemate by adhering to those 'not' rules.

Another reported trait (3, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125376)

Apparently being a super Scrabble player renders a person unable to reproduce.

Or was it "unlikely"?

Re:Another reported trait (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126150)

One of my in-laws is ranked in the top 150 Scrabble players in North America. Last I knew, his three daughters were fairly sure they existed.

Re:Another reported trait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126292)

Have you done DNA checks on them?

The real question... (2)

Rui del-Negro (531098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126646)

The real question is: is your in-law aware of their resemblance to the the gardener, the mailman and the poolboy?

Re:Another reported trait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126320)

well unlikely would be worth more. Particularily of the K or Y is on a triple letter

Re:Another reported trait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37127086)

Rubbish. Everyone knows that Scrabble groupies are the most sexually voracious of all groupies, and the most beautiful.

maybe next they'll figure out (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37125472)

that musicians hear sound differently. Duh.

Taking away from other brain capacities? (2)

ciaran_o_riordan (662132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125556)

We've all heard of the research showing that London taxi drivers have one part of their brain enlarged by their work.

More recently, research shows that this comes at the cost of reducing their memory for other things:
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/sciencetoday/2011/0609/1224298636027.html [irishtimes.com]

Becoming a super-specialist in a very narrow field, such as a Scrabble master, might have the same effect.

Re:Taking away from other brain capacities? (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37125618)

This may be so... I have heard an friend talk of a leading theoretical physicist who needed help from the university cafe staff to get the select the correct change to pay for his lunch.

I wonder if he had transcended numbers completely?

Tips for becoming a decent scrabble player. (2)

idbeholda (2405958) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126256)

1) Memorize every 2, 3 and 4 letter word, especially those that use x, q and z.
2) Memorize all prefixes and suffixes.
3) Onomatopoeias are acceptable. (brr, brrr, kapow, whoosh, ooh, aah, etc) Basically most any "word" you will find used to verbally illustrate physical action in a comic book.
4) Familiarize yourself with words that contain a high number of vowels and consonants along with those that contain either no vowels or consonants. (aalii, cwrths, etc.)

The above basic tips will come in handy, and can usually net at least 3-4 bingos per game, if not more. However, the above tips can be used for virtually any word game. The next list is a more indepth metaguide to controlling the outcome of a scrabble/literati based game.

In scrabble, count tiles. Same principle as counting cards. In other variants, this may not be possible if the letter pool is randomized. If the tile pool is fixed and you count the stack, it's not cheating, it's called using statistical probability to your advantage.

Any chance you get, clog the board by playing a word that creates more words in 2 directions or more. For instance, in scrabble, using the X (8) points on a triple letter score (played in both directions) will net a minimum base score of 52 points. An example of this would be a combination of AX, XU, AT. Naturally, Z's and Q's net a minimum of 64 points. It's basically a free bingo to abuse at whim.

Depending on the complexity of the variant at hand, try to maintain a minimum average of at least 20-35 points per play. This is hands-down, THE quickest way to build up a decent score, so don't rely on bingos to pull you through the finish line. They're just icing on the cake.

Do not bother memorizing definitions of a particular word, but rather the fact that it is a word. If someone is hounding for a definition of an obscure or unusual word, tell them to consult a dictionary; That's why we have them. Any word game should have the use of a dictionary included by default, whether manual or automatic. Memorizing each individual definition is pointless, as it merely takes up otherwise valuable brainspace. Would you waste time memorizing each page of in a metropolitan phone book on the basis that someone could possibly ask you to recite the content of extraneous information? I didn't think so.

If your letters suck, don't be afraid to throw some (or all) of them back. Just keep in mind to remember your chances of drawing the same (or different) letters. This method will sometimes make the difference between a 10-15 point play or a bingo.

Whenever you get the chance, try to either hit two word scores simultaneously (8 letters), or have a word score tile go both ways (single letter prefix or suffix).

Build up a cutthroat, bloodthirsty strategy by playing competitively against yourself. This method of training is good as it also allows you to freely think from a completely objective standpoint, and will help you to build up a decent wordlist memorization by working at your own pace. If you play competitively against yourself, you should easily be able to hit a final score of 800.

If the variant is scrabble, and the score is above 500-600 (depending on your own personal preference) write it down on the scrabble lid as a badge of honor.

Failed turing test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37127390)

Come on, what is your reasonable basis for memorizing as "taking valuable brain space" ? You ought to be a machine, and have no grasp about the functionning of human brains.

The more you learn, the more you can make connexions with previous knowledge, as can be seen in the ecclectic interests of geniuses (and *decent* politicians). That is why neurons have thousands of axons.

Memorizing the whole phone book sure is pointless, except if you want to strenghten you memory capacity for unrelated bits of info. More usefull in real life would be some poems, or, if you have time, the Maha Bharata (one of the oldest surviving text of manking, used to be comitted to memory ... about 8'000 pages long).

But, hey, please do as you think is best, but dont come complaining that you cannot remember the name of your grand-childrens when you'll be 85 (in all likelihood, more than 3 letter-long) ... One of my relatives, presently 97, blind & morphine-fed, still remembers the name, activity & whereabouts of her 80-or-so family.

Re:Failed turing test (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37127674)

More usefull in real life would be some poems

I think that I shall never see,
a /. post that tastes like brie.

What about that old TV/television series? (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 2 years ago | (#37126280)

I wonder watching that old TV/television game show version show these too!

Real languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126632)

Anyone who speaks a real language (i.e., most European languages other than English) is "flexible at word recognition using orthographic information", because those languages are actually based on a set of rules, not a bunch of random words and expressions whose meanings and pronunciations have to be memorized (as is the case with most short English words).

Longer English words (which Scrabble players are particularly interested in) are often derived from Latin / Greek / Arab / Old German / etc., so they too tend to follow those rules.

Maybe the real news here is how speaking exclusively English cripples your ability to process language in a structured way.

Same brain I am sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37126970)

I am sure they have the same brain as everyone else. Strictly speaking, my computer would not really be different if it was just programmed differently than other computers of the same brand. It seem fair to here point out that the organic brain probably keep evolving in a natural way (growing and changing) as opposed to how the common computer does with its fixed hardware and programming.

I write this, in the hope that the mystery, or the beliefs, about how the human brain works does not have people casually engaging with ideas or authorities that are abusive and in ways could be said to be crimes against humanity, when so called professionals does not seriously consider what you say and mean, and otherwise engage in dehumanising people with a variety of diagnoses that really has nothing to do with ones welfare.

Really??? (1)

SlashV (1069110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37127108)

Super Scrabble Players Have Unusual Brains?

And Super Chess Players have usual brains? Of course I haven't read TFA, but really?

Cromulent not cromulant (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37128136)

I am kicking myself for posting this but....right now one of the tags on this story is the work "cromulant". That's spelled "cromulent", people!

/by internet convention
//really can't help myself
///seldom play scrabble but like it

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