Are cryptic crosswords really ‘better than sex’?

Kathryn Friedlander explores the ‘kick’ we get from cracking a really good cryptic crossword clue.


A number of stories in the press earlier this year reported work carried out in Vienna and London on solving puzzles in a brain scanner. The study suggested that solving a clue to a puzzle can trigger a highly rewarding ‘Aha!’ (or ‘Eureka!’) insight moment, which releases dopamine into the brain. This is the reward chemical associated with daily activities such as eating, winning money … and having sex. This led to headlines promising that cryptic crosswords were ‘better than sex’… but what’s the reality behind the hype?

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Why are psychologists playing games?

Gill Hill explains why investigating creative problem solving is sometimes – quite literally – child’s play.


People might be surprised to hear that the games they played as children can help scientists to explain how people think. For example, researchers have recently used rock, paper scissors as a model for decision making. Furthermore, chess is seen as a pursuit for ‘thinkers’ around the world, and we have consequently seen lots of research exploring psychological processes whilst people play.

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What makes you tick? Your Time Personality!

Dr. Philip Fine (University of Buckingham) invites participants to complete a short on-line survey looking at ‘Time Personality’. Can you help?


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What makes you tick?

Are you always on time? Or usually running late? Do you know how long you’ve been sitting through your favourite TV show? What about how much time it will take you to do that task you’ve been putting off?

Dr. David Ellis (University of Lancaster) and I are collaborating in a research programme aiming to explore these type of questions. We’re currently surveying people to find out what makes them ‘tick’.

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