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The Qwerty Effect

Typing may be influencing how you perceive different words.

a close-up of the left side of a computer keyboard

Photo: Gastón Gaiduk (Flickr)

The QWERTY Effect is a phenomenon in which words with higher ratios of letters from the right side of the keyboard are linked to more positive feelings and emotions than words that use more letters from the left side of the keyboard.

Today, most writing happens through an interface with technology. The act of writing, for many, is now synonymous with the task of typing, especially as more work-related and personal correspondence take place at the computer keys. Two researchers have traced the rise of an interesting phenomenon connected to this integration of the keyboard as our primary writing tool.

They call it the QWERTY Effect, with its namesake being the QWERTY keyboard standard across most computers. The QWERTY Effect is a phenomenon in which words with higher ratios of letters from the right side of the keyboard are linked to more positive feelings and emotions than words that use more letters from the left side of the keyboard.

Studies have found that people’s ease of typing words with their right hands may influence them to perceive those words more positively than words primarily typed with their left hands

Not Just English-Speakers

The researchers tested the idea on Dutch, English, and Spanish speakers, and all groups ranked words with higher proportions of letters from the right keys as more positive, even when the words were made-up.

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 keys 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.

Evidence Elsewhere

Some researchers remained unconvinced by these findings, only to uncover more evidence of the effect themselves. One research pair 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.

Thus, gradually, changes in the ways we communicate may alter the meanings we connote with words.

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

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