Science claims this is why your male friends are better at Scrabble than you

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Amy Swales
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You may have noticed a difference in how you play Scrabble compared to other family members come Christmas. Are you a hoarder, holding out for that impressive seven-letter word? Are your energies focused on blocking your fellow players from lucrative scores? Do you specialise in that unique gut-punch of extending someone else’s word in a simple yet devastating move?

No matter our particular technique, a new study says there could be a big factor that influences how we approach the popular board game: our gender.

Research from University of Miami found that men are more successful at Scrabble on a professional level (data was taken from the National Scrabble Championship).

But given men and women take the same benefit from ‘purposeful practice’, there must be another reason for the disparity – and according to the study, it’s because women largely choose to practice by playing the game and enjoying it rather than analysing it.

In conclusion, the paper reads: “We have proposed how large gender differences can be attributed to differences in the methods of skill acquisition as opposed to the capacity for skill acquisition or the rates of skill acquisition.”

In layman’s terms, the researchers say there was a difference in how men and women approached their practice hours.

According to The Times, Jerad Moxley and his team surveyed just over 250 participants about practice, and compared it to their game ratings.

But rather than assume women are inefficient in practice, he says it could be more likely that women don’t see professional Scrabble as worth their time.

He tells the newspaper: “There’s not a lot of money in Scrabble; it’s not like chess.

“So why would you even want to be the best Scrabble player in the world? You could argue it doesn’t make sense.”

He added: “Just because there is a huge gender difference, it doesn’t mean there is a huge ability gap.”

Given the study focuses on a relatively small sample of participants, who self-reported on how they partook in professional tournaments from 2004 and 2008, it’s difficult to draw the conclusion that men are simply better at board games – the line some media outlets have taken (leading to the usual slew of Twitter users claiming victory over feminism). So don’t let anything put you off your annual Boxing Day showdown.

Images: iStock


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.