Interactive Skill in Scrabble

Proceedings of the 21st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (1999)
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An experiment was performed to test the hypothesis that people sometimes take physical actions to make themselves more effective problem solvers. The task was to generate all possible words that could be formed from seven Scrabble letters. In one condition, participants could use their hands to manipulate the letters, and in another condition, they could not. Results show that more words were generated with physical manipulation than without. However, an interaction was obtained between the physical manipulation conditions and the specific letter sets chosen, indicating that physical manipulation helps more for generating words in some circumstances than in others. Overall, our findings can be explained in terms of an interactive search process in which external, physical activity effectively complements internal, cognitive activity. Within this framework, the interaction can be explained in terms of the relative difficulty of generating words from the letters given in the different sets.

Author's Profile

David Kirsh
University of California, San Diego


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