Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Crazy Facts About How We Read. (Remix.)

In honor of the fact that I always make spelling mistakes, I am going to repost something I posted over three years ago:
The odds are you can read this:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
This was accompanied by some fine comments:
Nick Nelson said... 
Wow, taht ralely is aznimag. Who kenw taht we raed lkie taht.
Anonymous said...
taht was graet. tnhaks for the inoframtoin. woah. tihs is carzy.
(Still one of my favorite posts ever!)


  1. sdehs smoe lgiht on the wonrg way to sbalmrce ltertes if yu'roe tynrig to gvie smoenoe a biarn tsaeer.

  2. Theresa, :) Yes, if you are going to give someone a brain teaser, you better make sure the first and last letters are not where they are supposed to be.

  3. I love it! Just goes to show that when we read, we rely on pattern recognition. We don't spell out words like we did as children.

    I wish all my typo errors followed the first and last letter rule, then I would be set. Unfortunately my typos often affect first and last letters (e.g., hte, teh).

    Does this post give me the right to use explicatives? I mean, you are not *actually* writing the word, yet the meaning is conveyed. he he

  4. Jayna,

    Yes my mistakes often involve the first and last letters as well.

    As for the expletive issue, I'll let people make their own call on that one. To me it is akin the the question of whether "oh fudge" is an expletive of not.

  5. This ties into science so well. Our brains are so finely tuned to recognize patterns and this is a perfect example of how this benefits us. However, in science and so may other day to day events, we perceive patterns that aren't really there. With a mind leaning towards being skeptical we can avoid some of the pitfalls that our minds are so good at falling into.

  6. Great points Stan,

    Our brain is designed to do pattern matching. As an undergraduate I took math analysis (At BYU is basically proving every inch of calculus) from Dr. Swenson. When starting with sequences he said, "Can anyone guess what is the next number in my sequence: 2, 4, 6, 8, ?"

    We of course all shout out "10!" but he said, "No actually it is pi."

    We are definitely programmed to recognize patterns. That's usually a good thing, but sometimes it gets you into trouble. (Like believing a set has properties it doesn't just because you think you perceive a pattern not really there.)

  7. Pattern recognition is a cognitive short cut without which we would not get too far in life. We receive incoming stimuli and then, without thinking too much, scan our memories for matching scenarios. Heurisitic problem solving relies on this concept.
    It is interesting how society has branded stereotyping as a bad thing, yet it is as fundamental to human reasoning as pattern recognition is to reading sentences. We occassionally screw up when working off of stereotypes, but the actual process of generalizing from a few encounters with members of a particular group to the larger group membership is not inherently evil.
    All this talk about gender profiling in Arizona is kind of silly in the sense that everyone stereotypes people all the time. Critics of the AZ law claim that cops will start racial profiling, well guess what, stereotypes are already influencing their work (e.g., you drive a junker that is not insured, you have brown skin, and you don't speak a lick of english - well then, you are probably in the country illegally).
    Stereoptying and ptartern rogeciniotn in wttiren lagnague go hnad in hnad.

  8. Dave C.

    That is interesting that you associate stereotyping with our natural instinct to constantly pattern match. It makes sense and is an interesting idea.


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