Play a game and catch typos!
During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!
This week: This time, I think about the problem of catching the own typos and methods to help our brains catching them.
Yesterday, I proved a concept that could help us catching our own typos by accident. One of my current jobs is being a translator of a computer game. The task is fairly simple: just translate the English texts to German. However, a lot of creativity and writing is involved in this task and this increases the chance of inserting typos into the text, too.
But why is catching the own typos so difficult? The main reason comes from the fact, that writing complex texts is a very demanding task for our brains. Our brains try to express the meaning of certain facts with words, but because this is a demanding task, our brains start to generalize in order to save brain power. In this case, our brains start to arrange words to create a particular part of the whole content. Once the first part is created, it gets generalized and stored as a complete version in our memory so that we can use more brain power to assemble the next part of the content. In the end, we do have only the generalized content packages in our minds. In order to save brain power, the brain is no longer focussing on every single word we are typing on our keyboards. Instead, the brain focusses just on the meaning of each paragraph.
Finally, the writing process of the article is over and we begin to proof-read it. At this point, the brain has already generalized all the parts of the article to save brain power. These generalized parts are now compared with the article we just have written. The generalization now keeps us away from spending brain power on analyzing every single word, because we expect something to be there. The version is already stored in our brain and is now competing against the version shown in our writing software.
But why is it so easy for other readers to catch the typos? Other readers are reading the text for the very first time. They are new to the content and so the brain had not enough time to generalize the content of the whole article. The brain needs to analyze the words of the article in order to grasp the meaning of it.
But what can we do in order to catch more of our own typos? The best way would be to „reset“ our brains so that the just written article seems to be new to the brain. This in return would allow the brain to move away from the already stored version and to analyze the article as if it would read the article for the very first time. A suggested method to present our brains something new is changing the layout of the article. By changing the color or by changing the font, the article suddenly looks different and this could help our brains to pay more attention on every single word.
Yesterday, I found a good evidence for this idea. After I finished translating the game in my text-editor, I received a running German version of the game and started to play it. Although the text is exactly the same text I just finished writing, it was completely new to me, because the environment of the text has changed. Suddenly, I was able to catch some typos I have overlooked while I was proof-reading my work.
Science, it works!