Monday, June 20, 2011

Epxoesd : Cmabrigde Uinervtisy rsereach fitciitous

The other day I cited
reesarch at Cmabrigde Unervtisy purporting to show that 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.

However, the case is much as I ssupceted. The jumbled text was circulated on the internet in September 2003, but as of July 2008, no such research had been done at Cambrdge. Who says? Matt Davis who works, or worked, at the Cambridge cognition and brain sciences unit, where they investigate how the brain processes language. If there's a new piece of research on reading that's been conducted in Cambridge, he thought he should have heard of it ... and he hadn’t.

He concedes the text has elements of truth, but also some things which psycholinguists know to be incorrect. There is a cost to reading words with jumbled letters. (I suppose that’s obvious really). And the degree of jumbling in the circulated text was actually carefully limited, so it’s an exaggeration to say the only important thing is that the first and last letters be at the right place.

Matt Davis has written a page to try to explain the science behind this meme. (Or behind this idea. Meme is a word of whose utility I have yet to be convinced.)

Thanks to Ben in York for telling me about this (and the next one).

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