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Skilled Readers Recognize Words By Shape

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the it-looks-the-way-it-sounds dept.

Science 420

hessian writes "Skilled readers can recognize words at lightning fast speed when they read because the word has been placed in a visual dictionary of sorts, say Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) neuroscientists. The visual dictionary idea rebuts the theory that our brain 'sounds out' words each time we see them."

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first pnst!! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065058)

Pop quiz! who read it correctly? who read it "first post"?

Yes (4, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | about 2 years ago | (#38065064)

I always suspected that I read like that. I only have to spell words I don't know, or chop them up into syllables.

Re:Yes (5, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | about 2 years ago | (#38065428)

It also explains why we can just as easily read mispelt words where only some of the letters have been switched around. It's not which letters that get switched, but the resulting shape, that determines whether the word is easily readable or not.

It's also why certain words are constantly spelt incorrectly or mistaken for one another. Not only are the sounds of the variations similar, and sometimes the meaning, but so are the shapes. E.g., you don't see people mistake "they're" for "their", but you see people mistake "there" for "their" and vice versa all the time. Or for that matter, "then" and "than", "effect" and "affect". And at least for myself, the first few times I saw the word "prefect" in Harry Potter, I thought it said "perfect" and kept wondering why they were so arrogant.

Re:Yes (5, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | about 2 years ago | (#38065526)

And another thing: English is not my native language and I know a lot of English words I have never heard. Yet I can read them no problem. Another fact in favor of the theory in the article.

Re:Yes (4, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#38065572)

And at least for myself, the first few times I saw the word "prefect" in Harry Potter, I thought it said "perfect" and kept wondering why they were so arrogant.

In ye olden days of 5 digit /. UIDs, that was "Ford Prefect" from HHGTTG.

This also begs the question, of like, um, why completely inappropriately used phrases drive some people bonkers and others don't care. My visual cortex knows that "begs the question" is almost certainly meaningless filler and its application 99.9% of the time has no relation to its actual meaning, so I do not process/see it. Ditto uh, um, like. Perhaps like people in the under 30 crowd process spoken language like in a similar way, explaining why they like have this absolutely desperate like need to fill all pauses with the word "like" whenever they speak, like especially in like public.

Re:Yes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065594)

My god. I went the entire series reading it perfect and not prefect and didn't realize it until reading your post...

Re:Yes (4, Insightful)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | about 2 years ago | (#38065722)

Easy Proof
Which is harder to read:

This first sentence which is typed correctly and is correctly formatted...

oR thIS SeConD seNTeNcE wHiCh yOU PrObaBLy doNT reCOgNiZe thE ShaPe oF?

Thanks to annoying people on facebook, I'm sure we all already knew this.

spelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065074)

This is why we are bugged by bad spelling.

Interesting... (5, Interesting)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#38065088)

Interesting- I read about two or three times as fast as my wife and we've talked abou this before.
(frustrating when trying to read an e-mail together on the same PC at the same time).

She does sound out words in her head- I don't- I just tend to zip over them. There again- speed has its consequences- she tends to remember what she read better than I do.

I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

Re:Interesting... (5, Interesting)

pairo (519657) | about 2 years ago | (#38065256)

I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

That happens to me too, but what makes it especially annoying is that when I re-read, I recognize it and slowly start remembering what I read.

Re:Interesting... (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#38065430)

I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

That happens to me too, but what makes it especially annoying is that when I re-read, I recognize it and slowly start remembering what I read.

This happens all the time when my wife is talking at me, the buffer space fills up and lag starts hitting, especially if what I'm hearing is boring or repetitive or uninteresting "Why are you wasting all that time on /. blah blah and the garbage needs to be taken out and blah blah blah" and two minutes later I notice she mentioned taking the trash out so I stand up to do it, and she knows why there was a two minute tape delay and she gets more annoyed. Oh well.

Re:Interesting... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065588)

better that it goes into a buffer, at least, and not straight to /dev/null ...

Re:Interesting... (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#38065756)

this only happens to me when i'm reading while stoned

Re:Interesting... (2)

Ichijo (607641) | about 2 years ago | (#38065284)

I read about two or three times as fast as my wife... She does sound out words in her head- I don't- I just tend to zip over them.

Does she convert a written word into sounds, letter by letter and syllable by syllable, or does her brain have a direct word-shape-to-sound lookup table?

Re:Interesting... (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#38065362)

I don't know exactly how it sounds in her head or how her brain works- but, yes, she says she sounds out words in her head as she reads.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065398)

I have a direct word-shape-to-sound lookup table.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about 2 years ago | (#38065394)

This is how I read things. My biggest problems is when I see a shape of a word I misinterpret it as another word because the two words are similarly shaped.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | about 2 years ago | (#38065716)

Yes, this happens all the time to me too...

We'll be driving down the road- and I'll start laughing- my wife will ask "what are you laughing at" - and I'll tell her that a sign I just read I initially misread as something dirty.

It's odd how misread words usually turn out to be something dirty.

Re:Interesting... (2)

Binestar (28861) | about 2 years ago | (#38065468)

I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

I find I only do this when I'm tired. It is a good indication that I should put the book down and fall asleep. It actually works rather well, because often my brain isn't ready for sleep when I get in bed, but having this happen while reading I'll know I can fall asleep within a few minutes.

Re:Interesting... (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#38065496)

I'll be reading a book and then realise I've been on auto-pilot for the last 3 pages and actually have no recollection of what I just read.

I've done this too, which is why I often tend to read by sounding things out. I'm pretty sure this helps with writing and grammar skills too, since you get not only the meaning but the way the sentence flows and sounds (as anyone who has tried to figure out an improperly written sentence should have noticed). I always sound out sentences when writing.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I'm also mildly dyslexic (not enough to impact me significantly: I think reading a lot when I was young helped overcome any problems I may have had), so this may just be my subconscious way of adjusting for that. Worst was actually playing written music: I'd find myself (quite often) displacing the notes. Spent a good 4-5 weeks playing a song before I realized the first note was a third higher than I had thought.

This is news? (4, Insightful)

Lispy (136512) | about 2 years ago | (#38065110)

Interesting. I was under the impression that this is common sense. Maybe I should have spoken it out aloud in order to get all the praise. ;) Pretty interesting still to know that this is scientifically proven now. I wonder if this could be used for learning another language.

Re:This is news? (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 2 years ago | (#38065222)

I've been reading since age 3 and read at 1500 wpm with 100% comprehension. I could have told them long ago that this is how I do it.

It's part of my autism.

Re:This is news? (1)

Binestar (28861) | about 2 years ago | (#38065516)

so your reading ability goes way down if you use another font? I find that my reading ability is unaffected by fonts (within reason -- I can't read wingdings for example =)

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065282)

Yes, seriously. How would anyone think that a skilled reader pieces together words letter by letter? This is why known words are quick to read and novel ones take time, only they need the letter by letter process.

Re:This is news? (2)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | about 2 years ago | (#38065288)

Agreed - seems about as obvious as some of the patents microsoft pushes. *BOOM*

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065304)

Spell this: HINDSIGHT.

Re:This is news? (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#38065308)

Interesting. I was under the impression that this is common sense.

Some people read by shape and thats why they can be provoked into a killing rage by bad typography, horrible fonts, and awful visual noise like shiny computer/PDA/tablet screens. It stresses them out, like how peering into a fog or concentrating on radio static can be fatiguing.

Some people read by sounding it out, and they are incapable of noticing bad typography, fonts are lost in the noise of phonics or whatever goes on in there, and visual noise is artsy and cute and to be encouraged.

I have wondered if high speed reading would be a valid way to test precognition or some other ESP type ability, or maybe test for insanity? Just flashing my eyes across the screen shouldn't push enough bandwidth to actually OCR the page, so maybe unconsciously the brain runs on its own using ESP or pure mental craziness and the paper is just periodically keeping the brains made up story sorta on track?

Re:This is news? (1)

hoggoth (414195) | about 2 years ago | (#38065762)

> Just flashing my eyes across the screen shouldn't push enough bandwidth to actually OCR the page

I often have the experience that my eyes glance across some papers on a desk and I notice an interesting word or phrase is in there somewhere but I have no idea *which* paper it is on. I would have to read through everything looking for it.

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065336)

It kind of happens automatically. I am currently learning Russian by osmosis (just picking it up as my wife and her friends and family speak it). While I can read Cyrillic, when I encounter a word I don't know I read it very slowly, and have to sound out each syllable. When I see a familiar word though, I instantaneously recognize it.

Re:This is news? (1)

ScottyLad (44798) | about 2 years ago | (#38065616)

I fully agree - I notice this acutely at the moment, as I've been learning Russian for the past few months.

When I'm reading a book or an article, I skim over the common words, and slow down to sound out the unfamiliar ones. I noticed as my learning was progressing, that I would sometimes slow down to read every letter of a word in print, then realise it's actually a word I'm familiar with once I'd sounded it out in my head

Also, I noticed as I was becoming better at reading in Russian, that once I had started recognising common syllables, my reading started to speed up almost exponentially - for example, imaging learning English from scratch - it starts off as a load of jumbled letters on the page, then you start noticing recurring patterns - ~ing ~ate ~eral int~ ext~ ~ated etc

Since making this observation, I've also noticed that I'm able to quickly take in unfamiliar words in English, largely because I'm only actually processing a couple of syllables rather than a whole word.

Interestingly, I am almost completely unable to read Russian transliterated in to Latin characters, but can quickly read unfamiliar words in Cyrillic.

Re:This is news? (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 2 years ago | (#38065364)

The fact that all but the slowest readers read by recognizing the pattern of the written word rather than sounding it out in their head has been known for decades. It's what led to the academic de-emphasis on phonics for learning reading. Unfortunately, the education experts didn't stop to consider that sounding out the word in your head over and over is how you *learn* to recognize it by sight.

Re:This is news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065422)

Unfortunately, all the people who read in this fashion think like you do, and never mentioned it because they thought it was widespread knowledge. Those who don't do it probably never even considered the possibility of it happening because they'd never heard anyone talk about it and assumed everyone did it the way they did.

Re:This is news? (1)

gujo-odori (473191) | about 2 years ago | (#38065448)

I know. Anyone with any background in linguistics or education, or even just anyone with kids who have reached school age, knows this is true. Unless there is something novel that they've done and TFA doesn't go into, it sounds like they're really late to the party.

Re:This is news? (1)

Keith111 (1862190) | about 2 years ago | (#38065542)

Modern science has become the art of proving common sense to be true/false. Interesting thing is though is that if only skilled readers do this it would explain why some people don't get pissed off at "you're" / "your" mixups. I see them and they are completely different and wrong and make no sense to me when I read it until I stop and translate it in my brain to the right word then continue on. Apparently illiterate people still sound out words and thus words which sound the same have the same meaning to them.

Re:This is news? (1)

Zedrick (764028) | about 2 years ago | (#38065612)

It's not news, I remember my teacher telling us about this (how you recognize the shape of words, not letters) back in 1982. It has probably been known for much longer than that.

Oh well, this is Slashdot "news"...

(can I take that back? It IS old news, but OTOH it's a cool thing that kind of fits here)

Seklild Rderaes (4, Interesting)

erilane (787755) | about 2 years ago | (#38065116)

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 total 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. Amzanig huh?

Re:Seklild Rderaes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065168)

Having seen that about 10 billion times helps too.

Re:Seklild Rderaes (1)

Tr3vin (1220548) | about 2 years ago | (#38065210)

But you haven't seen that exact text, so the point still stands.

Re:Seklild Rderaes (1)

broken_chaos (1188549) | about 2 years ago | (#38065198)

Yup. And I can raed taht etrine tnihg mselyf, brleay soinlwg dwon.

The funny thing is (4, Funny)

Quila (201335) | about 2 years ago | (#38065484)

As I read, I read to myself in my head, not sounding out letters, but the words as I go. Whenever I see this example of transposition, that voice in my head starts to sound like it has Down syndrome.

Re:Seklild Rderaes (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#38065624)

In your comment, I found myself tripping over 'etrine', 'brleay', and 'soinlwn', parsing them as mostly nonsense without rereading the enitre sentence more slowly (actually, I had initially parsed 'brleay' as 'barley'). I didn't slow down even slightly for any of the other words. Not sure what that says about me...

Re:Seklild Rderaes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065266)

Strange thing, I actually had a bit of a problem reading your title, but no problem with the actual content of the post.

So, color and/or size may also play a part of this remembering process.

Context and capitals (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#38065654)

I can see three other reasons:
  • Some words appear with an initial capital more often than other words; "skilled" and "readers" rarely do.
  • The brain uses context from surrounding particles [] , which isn't as plentiful in such a short headline. The "to a" in "Aoccdrnig to a" helps the brain look up "according" more quickly.
  • If a letter moves all the way from one side of a word's interior to the other ("Seklild"), it might not get decoded as fast. In fact, my brain saw "Seklild" and thought Selkie [] .

Re:Seklild Rderaes (5, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | about 2 years ago | (#38065412)

Except that the human mind can read it faster and more reliably when the letters are in the correct order. (And simply correct.)

Lazy and barely-literate types will mewl "o u new wut i ment", and it's true that a reasonably intelligent person can figure it out, but communication is easier and less stressful when everyone uses standard spelling. The fact that an experienced reader can go beyond deciphering individual phonemes and recognize the patterns is one part of that.

Re:Seklild Rderaes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065446)

Pcocyppok. Slpmiy rnisreveg the ianretnl lrettes of ecah wrod rtluses in a mcuh lses rlbadaee gelbrad mses.

Re:Seklild Rderaes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065518)

1. If you reverse all the internal characters of a word keeping the first and last in the same position, as you did, it becomes _very_ hard to read.
2. You didn't keep the shape of the words: "Aoccdrnig" -> "According" -> "Aroccdnig", "rscheearch" -> "research" -> you even spelled it wrong, maybe that's why it was so hard for me -> "rsecerah; "Cmabrigde" -> "Cambridge" -> you did it right; "Uinervtisy" -> "University" -> Uvisevrity"...

But I don't think this person is correct about the shape of the word, unless the space under the "n" and the space around and inside the "v" come into significant play. Also a rather hollow "c" vs a rather solid "a". More research must be done to determine exactly which aspects of the shape go into how we identify words, because I do believe that is the right track. Perhaps they could vary the sizes of letters, or the font to get different effects and see if they can "trick" their readers.

I'm convinced Asians do it much the same way. If you see kanji on the computer, a lot of it can be so complex that certain parts of each just become a solid black box with a couple pixels sticking out of each side. Nevertheless, they seem to have no delay in identifying the kanji.

I have a weird disorder (1)

udachny (2454394) | about 2 years ago | (#38065118)

I have a strange disorder, where I can't recognize words by shape, I have to read the words specifically, very carefully before I know what they are. It's unfortunate.

Re:I have a weird disorder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065230)


Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065138)

I've seen this before. Just last week I was talking to my wife about how it's easier reading lowercase letters than uppercase because the word shapes are more distinct.

2nd Grade (5, Funny)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 2 years ago | (#38065150)

My daughter come home from 2nd Grade every week with a list of 'sight-words' to focus on - that is, words that were intended to be immediately recognized, not sounded out.

Glad modern science has caught up with elementary school.

Re:2nd Grade (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065376)

I think it's more than what your second-grade daughter is being taught to do. As I see it, there are at least two different types of recognization. One is by the order of letters in the word, which is possibly what your daughter is doing at the initial stages. Another is by the shape/outline of the word, with the internal details of the visual representation of the word being ignored. Or, just as likely, the recognition is at the level of phrases, rather than at the word level.

Of course, this is probably all well known. Forty some odd years ago, as a junior high student, I took a speed reading course in summer school, which emphasized fast sight recognition of words and phrases.

Re:2nd Grade (3, Insightful)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | about 2 years ago | (#38065420)

I don't understand how they can latch onto the "sounding out" theory when there are so many examples of ancient cultures using hieroglyphs. There aren't any letters to sound-out in these ancient languages, yet the cultures that used them extensively didn't have problems understanding them.

Catching up with elementary school, what about catching up to the ancient Egyptians?

I've kind of noticed this myself (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#38065154)

Often when I am reading, especially if I am tired or kind of zoned out, I will find myself almost skimming over words and reading them, but not really seeing them. I'll be at one spot on the page, then the next thing I know I will find myself several lines, if not a paragraph or 2, away from where I last remember reading, but I will have read the words without realizing it, and can remember what I read.

We do both (5, Interesting)

AlienSexist (686923) | about 2 years ago | (#38065158)

Yes it is a visual dictionary and if it is a cache-miss, then the fallback behavior is to re-parse the word slowly and sound it out. After a few encounters with a strange word it becomes visually cached as well. Parsing a word is far slower, of course, and is not the default behavior.

Re:We do both (5, Interesting)

Broolucks (1978922) | about 2 years ago | (#38065672)

I actually often skip even the fallback behavior. This happens especially often when I read novels that take place in foreign locations and the characters have names that I am not accustomed to reading. I read the book from cover to cover and then realize I have not the slightest clue what the main character is named. I recognize the overall shape of the name and the letter it starts with, but the rest is a jumbled mental mess, because I never took the time to read it and sound it out. For instance, while reading Crime and Punishment, to me, the main character's name was always R***********kov, and it would have been R********** if not for the character named R***********khin I had to tell him apart from.

Visual caching does not require re-parsing and sounding the word. You can just cache an unparsed blob. In general, I only bother parsing and sounding out a word if I expect to hear it, say it or write it later on. For this reason, when I read a name, a neologism or an unknown word that I can guess from the context, I rarely ever bother parsing it. Maybe it's just me, though.

It deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers are in (0)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | about 2 years ago | (#38065164)

I really like this bit of word recognition:

"Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers 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:It deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers are (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065354)

This was proven false a number of years ago, by a college in western Canada as I recall. If the order of the internal letters are reversed, it becomes impossible to read without deciphering each word.
Exercise for the student.

Re:It deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers are (1)

nirgle (554262) | about 2 years ago | (#38065564)

Yeah, it has nothing to do with the fact that by the 100th time this is reposted you already know what it says and speed-read it anyway and enjoy a nice dose of coaifrnimton bais.

Makes sense (1)

Pope (17780) | about 2 years ago | (#38065166)

Especially for non-character based writing like Chinese.

Re:Makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065482)

I don't think this means what you think it means.

Re:Makes sense (2)

ddxexex (1664191) | about 2 years ago | (#38065580)

Especially for non-character based writing like Chinese.

Saying it's a non-character based language doesn't seem to be the way you want to phrase it. Most kanji have a couple of main pronunciations which you can pretty consistently figure out. The big difference from the Latin writing system and the Chinese writing system is that chinese characters also have a meaning assigned to them. (And words tend to be more compact) You can still write out things fully phonetically in Chinese Characters. But with the Harry Potter books, the translators went to some lengths to not only phonetically copy the names, but to also pick the right hanji to add additional meaning to the names. Eg Voldemort's chinese name includes the character for 'evil' in it, but still sounds similar to the english name (Fudimo).

A detail look at the name translation can be seen here. []

Additional reading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065174)

An older /. post [] has more to say on the topic, specifically:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.

I recognize a few words (1)

rim_namor (2454342) | about 2 years ago | (#38065190)

I always recognize the word boobs.

You type boobs in any font, it's like I have super powers.

Boobs. B00Bs. 80085. Anything you do - I recognize it immediately.

Don't know about other word, but that one just strikes me as very recognizable.

Re:I recognize a few words (1)

XCDBFPL (846367) | about 2 years ago | (#38065358)

Most of that word comes in pairs, as does the subject, unless you are in a rebel bar on Mars.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065200)

The reason we learn to sound out words is so that we can figure out new words. Phonics is a horrible way to read.

Sounding out is what I do... (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 2 years ago | (#38065206)

...and why I am a fairly slow reader.

Interestingly, though, my fingers on a keyboard has become yet another form of brain-to-external-world communications. So words and meanings come out through patterns of movement in my fingers. I think "word" and the movements for "word" comes out in my fingers. The "sound" for "word" doesn't necessarily go through my brain unless I am thinking that way -- when I am more relaxed and less deliberate, words go directly from my brain to my finger movements.

Consequently, some typos come in the form of entire words where sometimes I might write "jr;;p" instead of "hello" because the placement of my hands are off.... though most often the misalignment is on the left hand only. Other typos, however, come in the form of inconvenient word choice and even word omission. Countless times I have submitted comments here in which I thought a word and failed to type it for whatever reason... other times, whole words were substituted for others... often with opposite meanings. Very embarrassing, but I have explored the causes and my conclusions are not unlike the findings in this article.

But you know, we have all known this at some level already. We can substitute a 1 for a lower-case L almost anywhere and people can read the word and often never notice... same is true of upper-case I and lower-case L depending on the fonts being used. So I hope this study isn't considered "new knowledge" but rather an expansion or an elaboration of what we already know because, we all kind of knew this already.

Sruloiesy? (1)

Zarim (1167823) | about 2 years ago | (#38065208)

I dbuot scietncestis put mcuh stcok in the torehy taht our bainrs 'sunod out' ecah wrod ecah tmie we see tehm.

No sounding out (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#38065216)

does anybody sound the words out in their minds ever? Serious question: do any of you actually spell the words out phonetically in your mind while reading?

Re:No sounding out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065470)

If it's a word I don't know.

Re:No sounding out (2)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 2 years ago | (#38065502)

There's a faint inner voice in my head that speaks words as I read them, or write them. I would imagine that my speech circuitry would light up on a brain scan, but maybe not as strongly or extensively as when I'm listening or speaking.

I'm a fast reader, and I read upside down pretty fast too (comes in handy from time to time), so I don't think I'm compensating for a lack of visual processing.

Re:No sounding out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065636)

Yes — it's called dyslexia.

Weird. (1)

DangerOnTheRanger (2373156) | about 2 years ago | (#38065238)

I always wondered if other people read like this. Often, I read multiple paragraphs of, say, a news article before a fellow family member has read a sentence. Consequently, I seem to forget the content of what I read more often (as other ./-ers have stated), but hey, at least I read faster. :)

Old News (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065270)

I'm pretty sure we've known this for many decades.

from nearly 10 years ago (with research back another 20) []

Stupid Article is Stupid (4, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | about 2 years ago | (#38065286)

It's already been well established that at least many people read this way.

Its common knowledge that most people can read normal (lower) case text faster than upper case text. And it has long been surmised that its due to the much better word shape diversity of lower case.

Its also common knowledge that most people can read jumbled up words with very little difficulty, as long as the first and last letters are correct, and the rest of the letters are in there in a random order.

Such as:

"I cnduo't bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae."

Given the number of people who can read the above almost effortlessly, anyone clinging to the theory that fast readers are "sounding words out" needs to be clubbed over the head with a baseball bat.

It also rebuts the premise of the article that we read by word shape. Its clearly a bit more complicated than that.

I expect we simultaneously look at word shape, the leading and closing letters, the length, and the middle letters along with some "predictive" matching based on context cues so we can narrow down likely candidate words that "fit" the sentence.

Re:Stupid Article is Stupid (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#38065674)

What's important is that this is finally becoming established fact. Hooked on Phonics (and its sibling programs used the nation over for the past 20 years) produced a load of kids (in my generation specifically) who could barely read aloud at half their speaking pace. Phonics is an important skill for anyone who is literate but we have dedicated hundreds of hours of education time to it when at least some of that time should have been going to sight based reading. It isn't the difference between fast and slow readers, it's the difference between being able to read, and being able to read and comprehend while you do so.

Incidentally, your scrambled words example is a great way to show that word shape is very important, more important than just "the first and last letters". Look at the believe. Scrambled as it is in your example the word shape is identical (bvleiee) but if you scramble it in a way that moves the tall 'l' around it's much harder to read (beivele). The text that went around the internet that you are quoting from is very carefully constructed to be as easy to read as possible. actually becomes aulaclty, according becomes aocdcrnig. There are other tricks used also, making sure that the trickier to decode words have lots of context, preserving multi-letter characters, preserving important syllables, etc. It's a neat piece of brain hacking, but it isn't quite what it's made out to be.

Hmm. No wonder All-Caps is harder to read... (2)

arthurh3535 (447288) | about 2 years ago | (#38065306)

...and forces you to consider the matter more in depth. It breaks the normal shape of words and sentences.

only first and last letter matter (0, Redundant)

stating_the_obvious (1340413) | about 2 years ago | (#38065310)

According to a raseerch at Caibrmdge Unviersity, it deosn't mettar in waht oedrr the letetrs in a wrod are. The olny imaortpnt thnig is taht the fisrt and lsat letetr be in the rgiht plcae.

The rset can be a ttoal mses and you can sitll raed it wiohtut peoblrm. Tihs is bucaese the hmuan mnid deos not raed erevy letter by itslef, but the wrod as a whloe. []

Road signs (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065312)

When the British decided to implement their current system of road direction signs, they switched from all-caps to mixed-case precisely for this reason: people remember the general shapes of words and the positioning of ascenders and descenders, thus people found it far easier to distinguish, say, "Brighton" than "BRIGHTON". This was many decades ago - how is this news?

People doing text layout have known this for years (2)

Quila (201335) | about 2 years ago | (#38065386)

For the exact same reason.

Old news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065338)

I've previously been rather bemused by people complaining about old news, but now i understand.

This is anything but a new theory. (4, Informative)

coldfarnorth (799174) | about 2 years ago | (#38065340)

Microsoft, of all places, has a pretty good webpage on this. []

Check out the "Model 1: Word Shape" section, in which this theory is described as "oldest model in the psychological literature, and is likely much older than the psychological literature"

There's some other interesting sections there too, like the moving window study.

I've do this...sometimes (1)

Shotgun (30919) | about 2 years ago | (#38065366)

I often read street signs at night, making out the word before the letters are truly readable, so obviously I'm not actually "reading" in the sense that I'm recognizing individual letters. But normally is sound out the individual words in my head. I'm a slow reader, and that is a hindrance in the computer industry (plus, I miss the enjoyment of reading a lot of books, because it just takes to long).

Could I read faster if I could somehow train myself to do this word recognition thing?

Anecdote time (2)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | about 2 years ago | (#38065372)

I frequently don't have to read words directly because I can detect them through peripheral vision and context.

Perhaps related to this, I frequently get distracted while reading but keep going, understanding the meaning of the language but not becoming aware of the individual words.

Personal Experience With This (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065404)

This comes as no surprise to me. I'm an American learning Swedish, but nearly all of my learning is done at the computer. I hang out in IRC channels, read Swedish news sites, etc. I rarely watch videos or listen to radio. As a result, I can read and write Swedish quite well but am completely incapable of speaking or understanding spoken Swedish. I've been accused of abusing Google Translate to read/write because so few people believe I'm capable of understanding the written language as well as I can while struggling to comprehend even the simplest spoken phrases. I meet Swedish people on chat rooms and forums all the time, so I get plenty of practice with reading and writing. It's not so easy finding someone to practice the spoken language with while living in Kansas.

Font choices... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065440)

This finding would indicate that careful font selection could make a significant difference to reading speed.

30 seconds per page, what's the big deal? (1)

lkcl (517947) | about 2 years ago | (#38065486)

it's called skim-reading. i read a 300-page novel in about 2 hours, but that's a leisurely pace, for me. i can do 3 lines at a time if i want, just read the first words, jump several and diagonally down, hit the end of the 3rd line, repeat. eyes spot paragraph beginnings and ends and focus on those: this is standard stuff if you've ever read tony buzan's books, what's the big deal? i don't recall - ever - my lips moving, or there being any "sounds" occurring in my bwwaiiiin. yes there's a sort-of delay between words coming in and getting through but, isn't that normal?

6 months later i'll come back, read and enjoy the same book again, and find very occasionally that i missed something. perhaps i shouldn't ask, but how does everyone else "read"?

This is over simplistic... (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#38065500)

There are multiple cognitive structures used in reading. There are all kinds of experiments where people can read perfectly well with letters removed from words and/or words with their letter order jumbled. This proves that word shape though probably necessary in speed reading is only one layer on many layers of cognitive infrastructure used in the process of reading as a whole.

inforhmative goatgoat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065504)

This result was expected, based on past studies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065508)

FYI: This "shape recognition" mechanism had been suspected for quite a long time -- ever since it was shown years ago that people can read lowercase faster and more accurately than uppercase. (Lowercase letters have more variation in shape because of ascenders and descenders.)

The only time I sound out words is when shape fails me. For example, I have trouble telling the difference between "marital" and "martial". The shape difference is too subtle for my eye, and I have to fall back to sounding them out.

Deaf People Knew This Long Ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065528)

They do not "sound out" words. They allegedly read much faster as a result because the words are just symbols and aren't slowed by the corresponding auditory pace.

Rebuts the theory? Not! (1)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#38065532)

The visual dictionary idea rebuts the theory that our brain 'sounds out' words each time we see them.

No, it most certainly DOES NOT rebut that theory, for two reasons:

(1) Homo sapiens is not a homogenous species; there are mutations - including neurological ones - and divergent evolutionary paths being explored with every single new birth; and

(2) I am living fucking proof that at least some humans have brains that do in fact sound out words, and quite literally so.

In order to communicate with a written language, I am forced to subvocalize - literally hear the words in my head - every bit of text that I read as well as write. What's more, I am unable to listen to any other spoken words while I am involved in this subvocalization process. This was quite destructive especially during schooling, since I was unable to take notes in class, and even recording lectures for later transcription was impractical.

My best theory, lacking the results of an fMRI experiment to prove it, is that this subvocalization is actually re-purposing the auditory processing center for written language, and in doing so makes it temporarily unavailable for its original purpose.

So, the genius who thinks the tinkering of these neuroscientists disproves the existence of alternative language processing methods is not so bright after all. I welcome that fMRI experiment to rebut the rebuttal.

Motorway Signs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065596)

This was known about in Britain in the late 50s, when signs were being designed for Britain's first motorways. Given the high speed cars would be travelling at, the signs had to be quick and easy to read. The designers chose to use mixed case as they knew people recognise words by shape (which was a major change from the existing practice of using all capitals on road signs).

duh (2)

amoeba1911 (978485) | about 2 years ago | (#38065610)

We do go by pictures of the words instead of trying to read each letter of the word.

1. Something written using the words you know but different spelling?
dis iz nut sum tin hue kan reed faast bee coz you arr juss nut uzed to sea ying eet liek dat.

2. How about some capitalization to make things hard to read?
tHiS sEntEnCe iS gOiNg To bE hArdEr tO REaD bEcAuSe yOu cAN't rEcOGNiZE tHe wOrDS aS eAsILY.

3. how about some number replacements?

I think for general population, the first example is going to be hardest to read because the words make the familiar sounds but they're not in the right shape. If you go phonetically alone, that should have been easy read. I would think the third example is going to be easiest to read for most people, the words look familiar even though they clearly have numbers instead of some of the letters.

Straw man. (1)

Greg Merchan (64308) | about 2 years ago | (#38065646)

I don't know that anyone has ever held a "theory that our brain 'sounds out' words each time we see them".

Forming my response (1)

banda (206438) | about 2 years ago | (#38065666)

The study's authors are now busy memorizing the shape of the word "Duh."

Press release about a tiny study? (1)

mwehle (2491950) | about 2 years ago | (#38065676)

The link is to a press release announcing study results. Reading the press release we learn the study was of 12 volunteers. I find it difficult to get too interested in a communications office news release about research on so small a scale.

Good job (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 2 years ago | (#38065752)

Oprah had a guy on TV so long ago that I can't remember who said this very thing ... he was some super speed reader guy.

How do I get paid to 'research' things people already know? I'm jealous

This has been known for a very long time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#38065764)

I have known this for over 30 years, it was explained to me to show why ALL CAPS was very hard to read, since the brain can not recognize the shape of the word, it has to read it letter by letter.

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