Scrabble Genius Nigel Richards’ Talent Helping Science
The boardgame Scrabble is giving psychologists a better understanding of the underpinnings of complex skill and a clearer picture of the origins of greatness. New Zealander Nigel Richards is widely regarded as the best player of all-time.
And though Conrad Bassett-Bouchard, a 24-year old graduate student from Portland, Oregon ended Richards’ runs of four titles at the National Scrabble Championship last year, Richards retains the greatest number of Scrabble titles.
Richards – the “Michael Jordan of the game,” as one co-competitor put it – has won five US National titles, the World Scrabble Championship three times, and the Thailand International – the largest Scrabble tournament in the world – eleven times.
The overarching goal of current research is to better understand the interplay between “software” and “hardware” aspects of the cognitive system. Software factors include knowledge and skills that are acquired through experience, whereas hardware factors include genetically-influenced abilities and capacities. Scrabble is ideal for research on how these factors interact not only because it is relatively easy to find research participants from a wide range of skill, but because it can be imported into the lab.
Original article by David Hambrick, Scientific American, April 21, 2015.