Brain Oddities: Reading Rainbow
Yesterday, a coworker showed me an interesting internet phenomenon that I’d seen some years before but had completely forgotten. You may recognize it from when it began circulating via email in 2003 (you know, those chain emails that threatened horrible things if you didn’t forward them):
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 ltteer be in 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.
I, like most people who read this, found it incredibly interesting, and decided to investigate further. It turns out that, although this passage holds a few grains of truth, there are a few substantial errors.
The first issue with the passage is that, according to an actual language researcher at Cambridge University, while there are several groups at the school studying language, this particular topic was not being investigated at the time of the passage’s release. The second problem is its claim that the middle letters can be in any order without affecting reading comprehension—this is only partially true. Take, for example, the following sentences:
1. Big ccunoil tax ineesacrs tihs yaer hvae seezueqd the inmcoes of mnay pneosenirs
2. A dootcr has aimttded the magltheuansr of a tageene ceacnr pintaet who deid aetfr a hatospil durg blender