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It Doesn’t Seem To Make Sense that We Can Read This, But Science Explains Why

It Doesn’t Seem To Make Sense that We Can Read This, But Science Explains Why

Tihs artlice amis to porvdie cliarty reagdring why it is poslisbe taht we are albe to raed wrods, eevn wehn the letrtes are julbmed.

Re-worded: This article aims to provide clarity regarding why it is possible that we are able to read words, even when the letters are jumbled.

I am sure that you have stumbled across the above meme (or at least variations thereof), possibly with a tagline mentioning that not everyone can read this, and if you can, you have a strong mind.

Have you ever stopped to wonder, though:

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1. What are the origins of this meme?
2. Are people unable to read them?
3. Why are we able to read them even?
4. What is the actual science behind this?

An article written in the MRC, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit delved deeper into this.

Origins of the meme with jumbled letters

Below is what is considered to be the first jumbled letters meme:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, 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. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Re-worded: According to research at Cambridge University, it doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself, but the word as a whole.

This meme started circulating towards the end of 2003. It needs to be recognised that such a body of research was not undertaken by Cambridge University.  At the time, the origins of its source were unknown. However, it now seems that the origins of the meme can be credited to Graham Rawlinson of Nottingham University. Rawlinson wrote a paper on “The Significance of Letter Position in word recognition”. In it he wrote a letter:

“This reminds me of my PhD at Nottingham University (1976), which showed that randomising letters in the middle of words had little or no effect on the ability of skilled readers to understand the text. Indeed one rapid reader noticed only four or five errors in an A4 page of muddled text. “

Can some people actually not read these memes?

I hate to burst your bubble, but I think it is fair to say that the majority of people are able to read these memes. I have yet to encounter someone who is unable to read them.

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What is the science behind this?

As the  original meme suggests, we read words in their entirety, not focusing on the individual letters. The order of the letter doesn’t matter, the only important thing is that the first and last letters are unchanged. But is this entirely true?

Consider these three sentences mentioned in the MRC article:

Sentence 1

  • A vheclie epxledod at a plocie cehckipont near the UN haduqertares in Bagahdd on Mnoday kilinlg the bmober and an Irqai polcie offceir.
  • Reworded: A vehicle exploded at a police checkpoint near the UN headquarters in Baghdad on Monday killing the bomber and an Iraqi police officer.

Sentence 2

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  • Big ccunoil tax ineesacrs tihs yaer hvae seezueqd the inmcoes of mnay pneosenirs.
  • Reworded: Big council tax increases this year have squeezed the incomes of many pensioners

Sentence 3

  • A dootcr has aimttded the magltheuansr of a tageene ceacnr pintaet who deid aetfr a hatospil durg blendur
  • Reworded: A doctor has admitted the manslaughter of a teenage cancer patient who died after a hospital drug blunder.

I am sure that you found these sentences increasingly hard to read. The first and last letters (although a factor) are not the only thing you use when reading the text.  So to answer the question. No, it is not entirely true.

There are other factors to consider. This becomes increasingly evident with more complex words and sentence structures. For example, when the re-ordering of letters creates the possibility for multiple words.

But, yes for straightforward sentences the first and last letter rule applies. This holds true for sentences where words are short, function words are used (be, the etc), jumbling of adjacent letters occur (exterior letters are easier to detect than middle letters), re-ordering of letters does not create another word and predictable text is used (you can guess what words are coming next).

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Summation

Most of us are able to read those memes of jumbling words on the internet. In these instances the sentences are straightforward. Consequently, the first and last letter rule apply. However, this is not true for more complex sentences where the re-ordering of letters allows for multiple words to be created.

If you want to have some fun with this, why not visit the Jumbler?

More by this author

Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

Study Says Art Makes You Mentally Healthier, Even If You’re Not Good At It When You Can Stop Yourself From Multitasking, Your Brain Will Start To Change How Silence Affects Our Brains in A Good Way, Science Explains 5 Things That Will Happen When You Wake Up Two Hours Earlier For A Month Why Overthinkers Are Probably Creative Problem-Solvers

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

Think you have a boring life?

The definition of boring is dull or not interesting. Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing and living the same life for too long, or maybe your daily routine is limiting your growth and happiness. Whatever your reason is, the following list of 20 things can definitely make any day more interesting. Some of them are silly, while some are more meaningful, so hopefully just reading the list makes your life less boring and sparks your creativity.

Let’s dive in the list to quit your boring life and start living an interesting (and meaning) one!

1. Channel Your 7-Year-Old Self

What would he or she want to do right now? Color? Paint? Run around outside? Play dress up? Eat with your hands? Play that instrument hiding in the back of your closet that you haven’t touched in years?

Just because you’re a grown up doesn’t mean any of this stuff will be less enjoyable than you remember it. Give yourself permission to play.

2. Go Play with Kids

Speaking of little kids, if you have your own or access to any (in a non-creepy way, like they’re your niece or your best friend’s kid, you get the idea) go play with them!

They didn’t create an entire show called Kids Say The Darndest Things because kids aren’t hilarious. They also keep things so simple, and we can really stand to be reminded of this and stop allowing ourselves to get bogged down in boring details.

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3. Order a Hot Dog

While you’re eating it, Google: “What’s in a hot dog?” You decide whether or not you want to finish it.

4. For the Ladies: Wear Your Sexiest Lingerie Under Your Work Clothes

Your “little secret” will leave you feeling anything but boring all day!

5. Play Cell Phone Roulette

You’ll need at least one buddy for this. Scroll through the contacts in your phone, stop on a random one and call the person.

You could spark an incredible catch up session or be incredibly awkward. Neither are boring.

6. Fill out a Pack of Thank-You Cards

Give them to random people who probably don’t get thanked too often for doing what they do ever day.

Ideas: police officers, librarians, servers, baristas, cab drivers, sanitation workers, teachers, people behind any check out counter, receptionists, your friends, the guy at the falafel stand, etc.

7. Sign up for a Class in Something You’ve “Always Wanted to Do”, or Something That Makes You Really Uncomfortable

Ideas: pole dancing, salsa lessons, improv, pottery, cooking, knitting (yup, there are classes for this, too!), karate, boxing, something techy like the workshops they run in Apple stores, get Rosetta Stone and learn that language you’ve always wanted to speak, etc.

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What’s good about joining an interest class is that you will also meet new people!

8. Interview Your Grandparents About Their Lives

You can bet they’ve had some crazy experiences you probably never knew about.

9. Get up on Stage at an Open Mic Night

Whether you’re funny or not, get up on stage and just talk funny. And if you’re not, memorize a few of your favorite jokes and tell those!

10. Do Something for Someone Else That You Wish Someone Would Do for You

We all have a few ideas on this list. I promise you will feel amazing after and anything but bored.

11. Start a DIY Project in Your Home

It doesn’t have to be super complicated. If you need ideas, there’re plenty on Pinterest. Or you can also check out these 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of.

12. Plan a Weekend Trip or an All-Out Vacation

This will give you something to look forward to.

Even if you don’t have the time or money to go on a vacation, plan for a staycation, which is same fun and relaxing!

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13. People Watch

Find a bench in a crowded area (centers of transportation like airports, bus stops and train stations are great for this!) and just observe.

People are infinitely interesting.

14. Eat Something You’ve Never Eaten Before

Bonus points if it’s a random fruit or veggie.

15. Dance

You can get your friends together for a night on the town or just pull up a video on YouTube and bust a move from your own living room.

If you’re feeling extra brave, you can even dance in public and get other people involved.

16. Go to YOUTUBE and Search “Funny Pets” or “Funny Babies”

This is also a great quickie ab workout as you will be laughing hysterically.

17. Pick up a Book and Start Reading

Check out the NY Times Best Sellers lists and grab a new book you can get lost in.

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18. Step Away from the Computer and Go Get Some Time with People You Care About in Real Life

Facebook stalking doesn’t count as real social interaction. You can even share this post with your friends and vote on which one you’d like to do together!

19. Check out a Museum You’ve Never Been to Before

OK, depending on your interests, this one might actually be boring. If you love learning, art or different cultures though, this one is for you!

20. Write a List of Things You Desire and Truly Want

This is a great way to help you figure out the real reason why you’re feeling bored about your life. Maybe you haven’t really done things that you truly enjoy? Maybe what you’ve wanted to do all the time has been left behind?

Think about the list of things you really want to do, and ask yourself why you aren’t doing these things (yet). Then start taking your first step to make what you want happen.

Now go make your life interesting and live your dream life!

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Featured photo credit: Kev Costello via unsplash.com

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