Have you seen this? Try to read it.

Aoccdrnig to a rseearch sduty at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it doesn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt 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 ltetter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Many people are surprised they can read it without much problem, even though the letters are not in the correct order. (If you had trouble, see Answer 1 below.) But is what it says about reading true?

Not really. As Matt Davis of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University says, “There are elements of truth in this, but also some things which scientists studying the psychology of language know to be incorrect.” He’s unaware of any research at Cambridge that suggests otherwise.

Davis points out that the way the words were rearranged in the passage above makes them fairly easy to read. Here are alternate word scrambles from the text:

Harder scramblePassage scrambleReal word

Why are the passage versions easier to read? It seems that when we read, we extract a lot of information from the context—so understanding several words in a sentence can help us guess another one. We also scan words and pick out markers that make them easy to identify, such as certain letter combinations and sounds. These elements make it easier to infer the word even when the letters are not in perfect order. You might note that in the passage above, many of these markers were maintained. For example, in “according” (aoccdrnig), the double c was maintained. Splitting them up (aricdocng) makes the word harder to read. In Cambridge (Cmabrigde) the second half of the word, “bridge,” was very nearly maintained. Changing the scramble to break up “bridge,” as in Cgmiadrbe, makes it much harder to read.

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