Monday, March 19, 2012

QWERTY, Keyboards, Fluency, and Feelings

"The QWERTY Effect: How Typing May Shape the Meaning of Words"
Dave Mosher, Wired Science, Wired (March 7, 2012)

"A keyboard's arrangement could have a small but significant impact on how we perceive the meaning of words we type.

"Specifically, the QWERTY keyboard may gradually attach more positive meanings to words with more letters located on the right side of the layout (everything to the right of T, G and B).

" 'We know how a word is spoken can affect its meaning. So can how it's typed,' said cognitive scientist Kyle Jasmin of the University of College London, co-author of a study about the so-called 'QWERTY effect' in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. 'As we filter language, hundreds or thousands of words, through our fingers, we seem to be connecting the meanings of the words with the physical way they're typed on the keyboard.'..."

Basically, what's on the right side of the keyboard tends to be easier to type than what's on the left - and folks tend to react better when something's easy.

Basically. There's a detailed explanation in:By page two, you'll be reading things like "...analyzed valence-normed words from three corpora...." Jasmin & Casasanto don't crank up the fog factor in an egregious to emulate erudition, unlike some academic stuff the Lemming's had to read: but some of what they discuss is a trifle technical.


"...The QWERTY layout dates back to 1868. Until then, typewriters frequently jammed because some letters sat too close to one other on the keyboard. When typed in rapid succession, they sometimes stuck together.

"In response, inventors created the QWERTY layout and sold it to the Remington company. The layout has stuck ever since, and with the transition from typewriters to personal computers, it became ubiquitous...."

You'll find pretty much the same thing in Jasmin & Casasanto's paper.

Dvorak keyboards were all the rage a few years back. Maybe you use one. That keyboard arrangement makes sense - also from an ergonomic viewpoint - for folks who use today's non-mechanical gadgets with keyboards. And who feel like taking time to learn a new keyboard layout.

The Lemming uses the same sort of QWERTY keyboard that just about everybody else in the English-speaking world does - and that's another topic.

Bad News for Leszczynska

"...Jasmin and his colleague Daniel Casasanto, a social psychologist at the New School for Social Research, knew from previous research that the difficulty of using an object affected how positively or negatively people viewed it.

"The effect is called fluency, and it even seems to affect abstractions such as people's names. The more difficult it is to pronounce a person's name, for example, the less positively we might view that person...."

That could be bad news for a brilliant young attorney whose name is Jarizleifr Leszczynska. If he wants to get ahead in the firm of Johnson, Smith, and Roberts: well, that's another topic. Topics.


"Chirality?!" That means:
  • "property of non-surimposable entities (for example, the right hand and the left hand)"
    (Glossary, PCAS)
Turns out, words with lots of letters on the right side of a QWERTY keyboard tend to be seen more positively than others. Particularly newer words, coined since QWERTY started being widely used.

Which brings up more questions:
  1. Do folks who are left-handed react more positively to 'left-handed' words?
  2. Is there a sinister bias involved?
  3. Are kung fu fighting invisible ninjas behind it?
For what it's worth, the Lemming thinks:
  1. That's a good question
  2. Depends on what's meant by
    • Sinister
    • Bias
  3. Not likely
    • At all
A tip of the hat to Brian Clark, copyblogger, on Twitter.

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