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The Qwerty Effect

Today, most writing happens through an interface with technology. The act of writing can be synonymous with the task of typing as more work-related and personal correspondence takes place at the computer keys.

Researchers David Garcia and Markus Strohmaier have traced the rise of an interesting phenomenon connected to this integration of the keyboard as our primary writing tool.


The phenomenon is called the QWERTY Effect, which is named after the first six letters at the top left of the keyboard. It describes the occurrence in which words with higher ratios of letters from the right side of the keyboard are linked to more positive emotions than words that use more letters from the left side of the keyboard. The researchers demonstrated the idea with a sample of English speakers, all of whom ranked words with higher proportions of letters from the right keys as more positive.

But why does this happen? Previous research noted that regardless of whether they are left- or right-handed, people on average type faster with the right hand. Also consider that there are fewer letters on the right side of the keyboard. These factors make typing with the right hand easier, which over time has conditioned our perceptions of the letters themselves.

YouTube, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes

Some researchers remained unconvinced by these findings, but Garcia and Strohmaier continue to produce supporting evidence. For example, they've found that across websites like YouTube, Amazon, and Rotten Tomatoes products and titles with higher ratios of letters from the right side of the keyboard tend to have higher ratings. In the future, it would be interesting to study if the QWERTY effect contributes to the popularity of certain online messages or posts.

Thank you to Kyle Jasmin of University College London for reviewing this episode's script.

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