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?
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’.
‘Here’s a question: ‘Why do we spend our childhood in fear of exams, then quite willingly put ourselves through pretty much the same tests as adults?’ … The short answer is: fun. The joy of quiz is in making a gratifying game out of all that knowledge sploshing around in our heads – fascinating information, but information for which our jobs and our personal lives stubbornly refuse to find any use’.
So begins this engaging romp through the world of quizzing: an engrossing compendium of trivia and analysis drawn from social history, psychology and real-life ‘behind-the-scenes’ knowledge, based on Alan Connor‘s own experiences as a quiz editor for the BBC2 quiz Only Connect.
Study reveals what it takes to become a cryptic crossword expert – and it’s more than just practice
You may have heard of the “10,000-hour rule”, the belief that it takes thousands of hours of intense practice to become an expert in something. Training and practice are clearly vitally important in many highly competitive areas such as sports, music and chess. But is that really all it takes to achieve greatness?
Recent research suggests that other factors such as genetics influence the likelihood that you will try, enjoy and excel at a performance activity. We decided to test that theory in the highly challenging arena of cryptic crossword solving. Continue reading →