60-Second Science

QWERTY Keyboard Leads to Feelings about Words

Words with more letters on the right side of a QWERTY keyboard are thought of more positively than are words primarily typed on the left side. Sophie Bushwick reports

Typing can be tough for your hands—but can it also mess with your head? Researchers have discovered that words typed on the right side of a QWERTY keyboard, for example POOL, tend to be thought of as more positive than those typed on the left side, say DESERT. The work is in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. [Kyle Jasmin and Daniel Casasanto, "The QWERTY Effect: How typing shapes the meanings of words"]

The QWERTY layout on your keyboard was designed to prevent typewriter jams by keeping common letter pairs apart. But QWERTY also creates new problems. It’s harder on the left hand then on the right, because it places more letters, and more tricky-to-type letter pairs, on the left side of the keyboard.

And this may make the left-side words less likeable. English, Spanish and Dutch speakers rated the positivity of over a thousand words’ meanings. And words typed with more right-side letters earned more positive marks.

This so-called “QWERTY effect” was stronger in words the researchers made up and in real words created after QWERTY’s invention—perhaps because these newer words are typed more frequently than spoken aloud. Right-side words are easier to type, which makes them easier to like—even for lefties.

—Sophie Bushwick

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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