is the lighthearted name given to a purported recent discovery about the cognitive
processes behind reading written text. The name makes little sense as glycemia
is the concentration of glucose
in the blood, with the most probable origin of the word being a pun on Hypoglycemia
. It is an urban legend
that does have some element of truth behind it.
The legend is propagated by email and message boards and demonstrates that readers can understand the meaning of words in a sentence even when the letters of each word are scrambled. As long as all the necessary letters are present, and the first and last letters remain the same, readers turn out to have little trouble reading the text.
The phenomenon is illustrated by this widely-forwarded e-mail message:
- I cdn'uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg: the phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rseearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is arppoiatrely cllaed Typoglycemia :)- Mbaye taht's why FCUK T-srihts are so cmoomn?
- Amzanig huh? Yaeh and you awlyas thguoht slpeling was ipmorantt.
Actually, no such research was carried out at Cambridge University. It all started with a letter to the New Scientist magazine from Graham Rawlinson in which he discusses his Ph.D. thesis:
- In a puiltacibon of New Scnieitst you could ramdinose all the letetrs, keipeng the first two and last two the same, and reibadailty would hadrly be aftcfeed. My ansaylis did not come to much beucase the thoery at the time was for shape and senqeuce retigcionon. Saberi's work sugsegts we may have some pofrweul palrlael prsooscers at work.The resaon for this is suerly that idnetiyfing coentnt by paarllel prseocsing speeds up regnicoiton. We only need the first and last two letetrs to spot chganes in meniang.
A counter-example can be seen here:
- Anidroccg to crad–cniyrrag lcitsiugnis planoissefors at an uemannd utisreviny in Bsitirh Cibmuloa, and crartnoy to the duoibus cmials of the ueticnd rcraeseh, a slpmie, macinahcel ioisrevnn of ianretnl cretcarahs araepps sneiciffut to csufnoe the eadyrevy oekoolnr.