Back in the 1870s, a newspaper editor named Christopher Latham Sholes rearranged the letters on typewriters so that the keys would stop jamming. The result was the QWERTY keyboard... and his innovation has actually fundamentally altered how we think about words
Words spelled with more letters on the right side of the keyboard are associated with more positive emotions than words spelled with more letters on the left. These are the findings of the latest research by scientists from both University College of London and The New School for Social Research, New York.
Their study reveals – for the first time – a link between the meaning of words and the way they are typed. The researchers call this phenomenon "The QWERTY Effect" or else "The Fluency Effect". Their study is published online in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Technology’s Effect on Language :
In the past, when language was only spoken, it was subject to the constraints on hearing and speaking. Because language today is frequently produced by the fingers – typing and texting – it is filtered through the keyboard (i.e. through QWERTY). As people develop new technologies for producing language, these technologies shape the language they are designed to produce. The research shows that widespread typing introduces a new mechanism by which changes in the meaning of words can arise.
Some words are spelled with more letters on the right side of the keyboard, others with more letters on the left. In a series of three experiments, the researchers investigated whether differences in the way words are typed correspond to differences in their meanings.
They found that the meanings of words in English, Dutch and Spanish were related to the way people typed them on the QWERTY keyboard. Overall, words with more right-side letters were rated more positive in meaning than words with more left-side letters. This effect was visible in all three languages and was not affected by either word length, letter frequency or handedness.
The QWERTY effect was also found when people judged the meanings offictitious words like “pleek,” and was strongest in new words and abbreviations like “greenwash” and “LOL” coined after the invention of QWERTY.
The Right Type of Explanation?
Why should the positions of the keys matter? The authors suggest that because there are more letters on the left of the keyboard midline than on the right, letters on the right might be easier to type, which could lead to positive feelings. In other words, when people type words composed of more right-side letters, they have more positive feelings, and when they type words composed of more left-side letters, they have more negative feelings.
The QWERTY effect suggests the written forms of words can influence their meanings, challenging the traditional view that the meaning of words are completely independent of their actual form.
So, should parents stick to the positive side of their keyboards when picking baby names? Is Molly a better choice than Sara? How about Jimmy instead of Fred? What sort of implications does this have for advertising and branding?
Well, according to the authors, “People responsible for naming new products, brands, and companies might do well to consider the potential advantages of consulting their keyboards and choosing the right name.”
So the next time you are either texting or typing away your computer, take a moment to notice how you feel when you type words in the ‘right’ way. The latest research suggests you will feel happier.