A cognitive examination of skill and expertise in word games and puzzles

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date



Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


In this chapter, word game expertise will be examined from a cognitive perspective. First, a general taxonomic space of word games where the primary organizing axis distinguishes letter versus meaning-centered games will be proposed. Next, crosswords and SCRABBLE will be the focus, and aspects of game expertise will be examined by summarizing past research and news reports, including tournament and practice records. Finally, the results of a number of expert–novice comparison studies that have examined the cognitive differences between word game experts and non-experts will be summarized. The chapter will conclude with the hypothesis that word game expertise is supported by both practice and prior skills and ability, and will suggest predisposition-opportunity may be a fruitful framework for understanding skilled performance in this domain.

Publisher's Statement

Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198795872.013.24

Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of Expertise