Robert (hydroai) wrote,
Robert
hydroai

"Pop Science" is often wrong

I often wonder how so much misinformation can be passed around (Some examples: There are over a hundred inuit words for snow -- the truth is, there are less than a dozen. English became the national language in the United States over german by only one vote -- the truth is, there is no national language in the United States. The list continues.) That's why after reading the short paragraph that follows, I was skeptical of its results, having taken several courses on cognitive psychology and linguistics. I did some research on the internet and came up with the link that appears at the bottom of this post. I also came up with my own counter example, which is the second paragraph that appears below.

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch by the Lngiusiitc Dptanmeret 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.

But tihs sudesppoly postrugeiis drentmapet apareps ircorcent. If tehy had ctreaed a denefrift eplamxe, praphes tehy wunld'ot be dinwarg teshe dvicpetee cosinuncols so qclukiy. Tehy aslo clitenonenvy redeeorrd tiehr leetrts to be eeasir to dipecher, mkiang an eelgenicdxy wrslehots slpame wrose. The Lusingitic Drapementt at Cigarmdbe Useitvinry nedes steamrr rrccheeserahs.

Here's the original mixed up text I had here, before it was improved by the first comment:
But tihs sspduepoly pteosruigis drampeentt aaerpps icceonrrt. If tehy had ceeatrd a dneerifft emplaxe, ppaerhs tehy wlund'ot be dinwarg teshe dviteepce coouinnclss so qlkiucy. Tehy aslo clitoeennnvy rrroeeedd tiehr lrttees to be eeiasr to dpceehir, mniakg an eeeilcndgxy wrslehots slpame wrose. The Ltiiusingc Daeemnrptt at Cigmradbe Usiintevry nedes steamrr rrrcchheeeass.

Here's the actual unscrambled text:
But this supposedly prestigious department appears incorrect. If they had created a different example, perhaps they wouldn't be drawing false conclusions so quickly. They also conveniently reordered their letters to be easier to decipher, making an exceedingly worthless sample worse. The Linguistic Department at Cambridge University needs smarter researchers.

As you can see, there is some difficulty reading it -- a far cry from "reading it without problem"! There are event some words that are indecipherable without much thought. If this example really is from Cambridge University, well then, there goes the neighborhood.

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  • 2 comments

Anonymous

December 5 2004, 20:51:18 UTC 14 years ago

"But this supposedly prestigious department _____ incorrect. If they had created a different example, perhaps they wouldn't be ____ these deceptive conclusions so quickly. They also conveniently reordered their letters to be easier to decipher, making an exceedingly ____ ____ worse. The Linguistics Department at Cambridge University needs ______ researchers"

This was me reading the first part of the 3rd paragraph before realizing you put the plain text (although I read the jumbled word as "these deceptive" rather than "false") I didn't stop to try and figure out the words. It was mostly doable, but I had real trouble if a word spelled another world when jumbled i just couldn't read it.
I wasn't sure exactly what would make the paragraph most difficult to read, since I pretty much knew what the text said when I was reordering the letters. Although there were certain words that I couldn't remember. I did know, however, that text processing is not all top down, and while top down is part of what the brain does to understand printed text, there's a great deal more. Your comments indicate that this text should probably be harder to read:

But tihs sespudpoly postrugeiis dtreenmapt aaerpps ircorcent. If tehy had cetread a denefrift explame, phrapes tehy wunld'ot be dinwarg teshe dvicpetee cosinuncols so qilucky. Tehy aslo clitenonenvy roeredred tiehr lretets to be eeasir to diphecer, mkiang an eelgenicdxy wrslehots slpame wrose. The Lusingtiic Dapmeentt at Cigarmdbe Useitvinry nedes steamrr rrracchheeses.