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it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are

it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae… it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place

Lots of people have seen this, and it’s fun – but what does it really show?

It’s not actually true that it’s ‘Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy’, as some versions have it, but a researcher at Cambridge University (Matt Davis at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit) has been thinking about it, and published a fascinating page taking the meme apart:

http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/people/matt.davis/Cmabrigde/

This has versions in many languages: Hebrew, Czech, Russian, Icelandic…. (he’d like to know if it works in Thai or Chinese). It does vary from language to language; it’s fine in French and Spanish (even I, with basic French and very little Spanish, can read it), but apparently not in Hebrew (no vowels) or Finnish (long complex words, and all those vowels can pile up a bit).

Davis has traced some previous research by Graham Rawlinson in 1976, and also shows that the ‘first and last letters’ thing doesn’t necessarily work, even in English, and goes on to take apart the standard version, relating to what we know about reading, to demonstrate that the usual example is quite carefully tailored to be easier than many other passages in English might be.

A fascinating bit of real-life, non-anglocentric research, and then applying standard theories about reading to a unconventional example. Would be the basis of a good theories-of-reading lecture, I think. I don’t teach cognitive psych any more, but it could be an idea for someone else. Thanks, Matt.

(….and also thanks to Bart van Leeuwen who posted the link in the middle of a fairly heated argument about proper spelling and punctuation on a photography discussion group – no, I can’t understand how that got started, either — well, actually, if you know what discussion groups are like sometimes, you can understand it.)

My typing is awful, and I make many mistakes, often reversing the order of letters if one is right-handed (-fingered, actually) and one left-handed. I’ve gone back through this post correcting those errors, as usual, but I need not hvae btoherd, raelly.

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One response to “it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are

  1. millerpsych June 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Later post on the photography discussion group:
    7H15 M3554G3
    53RV35 7O PR0V3
    H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N
    D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5!
    1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5!
    1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG
    17 WA5 H4RD BU7
    N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3
    Y0UR M1ND 1S
    R34D1NG 17
    4U70M471C4LLY
    W17H 0U7 3V3N
    7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17,
    B3 PROUD! 0NLY
    C3R741N P30PL3 C4N
    R3AD 7H15.
    PL3453 F0RW4RD 1F
    U C4N R34D 7H15.

    Don’t think this requires another set of explanations. Probably just an extreme example of how we deal with horrible typefaces all the time.

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