• Question: @Pizza why can our brains read sentences with mistakes like this : th15 i5 h4rD t0 r43d

    Asked by big man steeples to Paul, Nadine, Alex on 16 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Alex Reid

      Alex Reid answered on 16 Nov 2018: last edited 18 Nov 2018 3:40 pm


      Hi Big Man Steeples. Superficially it is probably because the numbers you picked have a very similar shape to the letters they replace! However there is a more detailed answer I could give. There is evidence that when we read things the start and the end of words are the most important bits for determining what the word actually is. This is called a ‘Cambridge Sentence’, for example: ‘the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae’ is still readable! This happens because the human mind does not read every letter independently but the word as a whole.
      Funny little story, my supervisor was editing a book with a Cambridge sentence in it like the one above which was being used to make the same point I made above. When it got to the publisher the they thought it was just spelled incorrectly and put all the letters back in the right place! It nearly went to print! They managed to catch it in time though and switch them back.

    • Photo: Nadine Mirza

      Nadine Mirza answered on 16 Nov 2018:


      Hey big man steeples!
      I think Alex provides a pretty comprehensive and informative answer to this and I just wanted a chance to attach one extra nugget of info to this.
      In addition to everything else mentioned, sometimes it’s just a matter of how our brain deals with new incoming information. Our brain does something called top down processing which is making use of past information to interpret new information. In this case we are used to certain letters and their positions in certain words. In read we know r is the first letter and d is the last. This knowledge informs our brain when we see r43d and tells us that it’s probably read.
      Top down processing is basically looking at new info and filling in the blanks with stuff we already know!

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