Monday, April 02, 2007

Can You Read This?

I have to thank my mother-in-law for this post (thanks, Joyce! :-) It's very cool. Let me know how you make out. I'd be especially interested to see if people with English as a second language have a much harder time with this than native speakers.

fiyuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. Cna yuo raed tihs ? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg . The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae . The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mn id deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe . Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

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By Anonymous Rich Waters, at 11:22 PM  

That's pretty interesting. I was pretty surprised that I could read it just fine. Though it reads slightly slower than non jumbled letters :P

By Anonymous Rob McDonagh, at 11:55 PM  

I saw that a couple of years ago, but for some reason I remember the overall premise being that almost everyone could read words written that way. I wonder if half the people responding will be asking why they should be able to read gibberish?

It's pretty entertaining. I find that I can read the jumbled words just as quickly as I usually can read, but only if I force myself to RELAX while I'm reading. If I pay too much attention to the words, I start noticing that they're all screwy, which slows me down.

Now, Chris, you know you have to apply this to the theory of interface design for us. What does it mean for our interfaces if the human mind can do so much interpolation with such ease? Is the only lesson that it might not matter if we misspell a menu item? In which case, somebody please tell my boss! heh...

By Anonymous Patrick Kwinten, at 2:38 AM  

A spellchecker and the problem is solved :-)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:35 AM  

I don't know where the '55% of people' concept comes from. The whole idea of that research is that everyone can read it (bar people with reading disabilities).

By Anonymous Elf, at 5:53 AM  

English is my second language, being Norwegian, but I had no problems with this one. :)

By Anonymous Nathan T. Freeman, at 7:02 AM  

Rob, how does this relate to UI design...

Well, assuming that subsequent posters are indeed correct, and it's the general human condition to be able to interpret the paragraph correctly, AND we're not terribly worried about accessibility of our design (such as with screen readers) then it opens up a lot of possibilities about data labelling.

People that have checked out our 'sphere presentation know that I in particular am a nut about de-emphasizing labels. This is a good example of just how much you can get away with, because the human brain is so capable of interpolating meaning from context. Go ahead and abbreviate that column head or form's static text! As long as screen readers aren't a concern, then your audience will be able to derive context with surprisingly little cognitive effort.

By Anonymous Theo Heselmans, at 9:21 AM  

English is my third language in Belgium (Dutch/Flemish first, French second).
No pemlrobs hree ;-)

By Blogger Chris Blatnick, at 9:30 AM  

I agree...I'm not sure where the 55% comes from, as I also thought just about everyone could read that. It's fascinating, though, especially since my youngest daughter is autistic. She basically taught herself to read when she was three and can read far above her grade level. BUT...she has trouble spelling even three letter words. Truly amazing what the human brain can do!

@Nathan...I need to start paying you for answering all of these questions for me! :-D

@Rob...This is also somewhat related to how we tend to like to chunk things as we become experts in a particular task (in this case reading). When first starting out working with a new system, we tend to focus on all the little details (how do I execute the command to move this document to the trash?). As we become more proficient with the application, we start to "chunk" many of these low-level activities into automatic actions that we don't have to think about. As much as we can design parts of our interfaces to conform to the mental models that users have already developed when using the computer (hitting the delete key to trash a document, for example), we will be helping our users become that much more proficient that much "quickr". :-)

By Anonymous Maria Helm, at 11:31 AM  

I recall seeing something similar, and the explanation was that the brain has the ability to fix or complete things - be they words or pictures. This is similar to how if I show you a picture of a square where part of it is covered up, you will still know it is a square.

I think there is a connection with interface design in there somewhere, but I'll leave it to Chris to expand on that.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:43 PM  

Hi Chris, really neat. Allthough being a Swede and having English as a second language I hade no problem reading it at all... Really stange how the mind works :-)


By Anonymous Christian Petters, at 6:05 AM  

Hi Chris,
Also no problem to read, even with English as a 3rd, well, kind of 2nd language beneath Russian and my mothers tongue German.
Got to your blog today while listening to the Taking Notes Podcast. Pretty awesome the experiences you are sharing here. Keep it up.

By Blogger Chris Blatnick, at 10:03 AM  

@Christian...This still really fascinates me. I love learning about how the brain works. I wonder if perhaps facility with written language actually increases the more languages that a person knows. That would be an interesting research point. Anyway, thanks for coming by and thank you for the nice comments! :-)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:54 AM  

tihs si asmowe, ti is ptery cool hwo i cna read it jsut teh smae sa rdiaeng nmaroly. i ma gnoig ot tset ti on ym frnieds!

By Blogger Elahaundra, at 6:52 PM  

Koolio!! Me & my 8 year old sis could read it with out a problem! (:

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