Fluid Intelligence is Key to Successful Cryptic Crossword Solving

Friedlander, Kathryn J. and Fine, Philip A. (2020) Fluid Intelligence is Key to Successful Cryptic Crossword Solving. Journal of Expertise, 3 (2). pp. 101-132. ISSN 2573-2773

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British-style cryptic crossword solving is an under-researched domain of expertise, relatively unburdened by confounds found in other expertise research areas, such as early starting age, practice regimes, and high extrinsic rewards. Solving cryptic crosswords is an exercise in code-cracking detection work, requiring the segregation and interpretation of multiple clue components, and the deduction and application of their controlling rules. Following the Grounded Expert Components Approach (GECA, Friedlander & Fine, 2016) an earlier survey demonstrated that solvers were typically educated to at least degree level, often in mathematics and science-related disciplines. This study therefore hypothesized that as a group they would show higher-than-average fluid intelligence compared to a general population, with experts showing higher levels than ordinary solvers. Twenty-eight crossword solvers (18 objectively defined experts, and 10 non-experts) solved a bespoke cryptic crossword and completed the Alice Heim tests of fluid intelligence (AH5), a timed high-grade test, measuring verbal and numerical (Part I) and diagrammatic (Part 2) reasoning abilities. In the 45m allowed, 17 experts and 2 non-experts correctly finished the crossword (times ranging between 11m and 40m). Both solver groups scored highly on the AH5 (both overall and for Part I) compared to manual test norms, suggesting that cryptic crossword solving has a high cognitive entry threshold. The experts scored higher than the non-experts, both overall (p = .032) and on Part I (p = .002). The overall and Part I AH5 scores correlated negatively (rs =-.48;-.72 respectively) with extrapolated finishing times: faster finishing time being associated with higher AH5 scores. The experts and non-experts were matched in age, education, crossword solving experience, and weekly hours spent solving, leading to the suggestion that fluid intelligence differences between the groups may play an important role in cryptic crossword solving expertise. Although small in scale, the study thus adds to the growing body of literature which challenges the "deliberate practice only" framework of high expertise in a performance domain. Suggestions for future explorations in this domain are made.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fluid intelligence, cryptic crosswords, expert performance, Grounded Expert Components Approach (GECA), deliberate practice, problem-solving, talent
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Psychology and Wellbeing
Depositing User: Kathryn Friedlander
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2020 14:17
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2020 14:17
URI: http://bear.buckingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/493

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