The world of competitive Scrabble: Novice and expert differences in visuopatial and verbal abilities

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2007 Jun;13(2):79-94. doi: 10.1037/1076-898X.13.2.79.


Competitive Scrabble players spend a mean of 4.5 hr a week memorizing words from the official Scrabble dictionary. When asked if they learn word meanings when studying word lists, only 6.4% replied "always," with the rest split between "sometimes" and "rarely or never." Number of years of play correlated positively with expertise ratings, suggesting that expertise develops with practice. To determine the effect of hours of practice (M = 1,904), the authors compared experts with high-achieving college students on a battery of cognitive tests. Despite reporting that they usually memorize word lists without learning meanings, experts defined more words correctly. Reaction times on a lexical decision task (controlling for age) correlated with expertise ratings, suggesting that experts develop faster access to word identification. Experts' superiority on visuospatial processing was found for reaction time on 1 of 3 visuospatial tests. In a study of memory for altered Scrabble boards, experts outperformed novices, with differences between high and low expertise on memory for boards with structure-deforming transformations. Expert Scrabble players showed superior performance on selected verbal and visuospatial tasks that correspond to abilities that are implicated in competitive play.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aptitude*
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • Female
  • Game Theory*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Orientation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Practice, Psychological*
  • Problem Solving
  • Professional Competence
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics
  • Students / psychology
  • Vocabulary*