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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PhD opportunity: Creativity in Medical School Education

Want to come and research with us? Check out our latest opportunity: Creativity in Medical School Education: Enhancing the Diagnostic Skills of Tomorrow’s Doctors on FindAPhD!


We’ve just advertised for applicants to undertake a full-time research PhD at the University of Buckingham CREATE hub. This is a really exciting opportunity to work with our Medical School to look at the role of creativity in medical diagnosis. Continue reading