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Your Body Detects Typos While Your Conscious Mind Ignores Them

hands typingAccording to a new study from Nashville's Vanderbilt University, part of your brain may know when you've made a typo, even if the rest of you doesn't. Researchers Gordon Logan and Matthew Crump gathered a group of "skilled" typists (with their minimum typing speed set at a ludicrously low 40 words per minute), and asked them to copy a paragraph about border collies. As the participants typed, the researchers manipulated some of the words appearing on screen, both correcting some common typing errors and introducing others where there were none. The typists were interviewed afterward, and were asked questions about the experiment. For the most part, the participants took credit for the automated corrections, and accepted blame for the planted typos.

Analyzing the typist's keystroke speed, however, revealed something interesting: when the a mistake was made -- even if the researchers automatically corrected it -- the participants' fingers slowed down slightly before moving on to the next letter. The typists never saw the error and were not, at least consciously, aware of the mistake. Yet their fingers slowed instinctively, indicating that the brain actually detects errors on multiple levels.

Though not definitive, the study implies that we have a hierarchical method of error correction -- a "lower" physical system that does the work and a "higher" system that accepts credit and blame. By manipulating the on-screen text, researchers were able to trick the "higher" system. But the "lower" system, which presumably relies on things like muscle memory, indicated that some awareness of a mistake existed. It's either that, or our fingers have minds of their own.

Tags: brain, gordon logan, GordonLogan, matthew crump, MatthewCrump, science, study, top, typing, vanderbilt university, VanderbiltUniversity