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Why do normal words suddenly look 'wrong' if you stare at it for too long or read the same word over and over?

(29 Posts)
TheCunnyFunt Sat 07-Jun-14 14:45:58

Referring to the yoghurt yogurt thread. Both these words look wrong to me now I've read them so many times.

It's weird isn't it? Anyone know why this is? I'd be interested to know.

onetiredmummy Sat 07-Jun-14 14:46:30

I have that too! No idea what it is though.

EatShitDerek Sat 07-Jun-14 14:47:22

I do it with names as well.

Say fork over and over. It suddenly sounds like a really funny word. or that might just be me

Canus Sat 07-Jun-14 14:47:31


And if you repeat them out loud, they start to sound wrong too.

I used to scare myself as a child doing that grin

kelper Sat 07-Jun-14 14:48:27

oo me too!! any word can sound really odd if you say/think it too much!

onetiredmummy Sat 07-Jun-14 14:50:28

I'm odd with words though, I don't like the word eyes written down as the 2 e's do indeed look like eyes staring back at you!

<slinks off doomed to be forever on my own with this one>

EatShitDerek Sat 07-Jun-14 14:57:29

Does anyone sometimes forget how simple words are spelt? I do. The and And are the main ones blush

EduCated Sat 07-Jun-14 14:58:10

I did this yesterday with 'empty'. I mean seriously, what kind of a word is that?! Ditto 'throat' and 'frog'.

LizzieVereker Sat 07-Jun-14 15:00:03

It's because your brain reads words as whole shapes, rather than individual letters. That's why it's easier to read lower case than upper case letters, the variations in heights between lower case letters make a more defined shape.

Your brain is trained to recognise the shape of the whole word, so if you stare at a word for ages, you start to notice the individual letter shapes, your brain loses the sense of the whole word shape, and it begins to look unfamiliar.

Had this the other day with the word 'sandal'

Shedding Sat 07-Jun-14 15:38:38

Going. I once made hundreds of labels saying 'Going, going, gone' when I worked in a shop, then sat staring in horror once they were all up, completely convinced I had spelled it wrong. I was reading it as goy-ng by that point!

tilliebob Sat 07-Jun-14 15:39:31

I remember being in Clintons one day and deciding suddenly that "daughter" was spelt wrongly grin. I was looking at all these cards thinking "is that REALLY how you spell it?!" It was as if I'd never seen the word before!

DocDaneeka Sat 07-Jun-14 15:39:46


SmartiesMakeMeNaughty Sat 07-Jun-14 15:47:33

It's a recognised phenomenon called semantic satiation. Which is nice to know but doesn't make it any less uncanny when you are experiencing it.

bruffin Sat 07-Jun-14 15:55:47

The brain does not read words as shapes at all. It scans each letter in the word simultaneously then fitting them together until it finds a word it can recognise.

EasterSundaySimmons Sat 07-Jun-14 16:23:38
Peaceloveandbiscuits Sat 07-Jun-14 16:41:51

Dish. Say it. Dish. Dish dish dish.

EduCated Sat 07-Jun-14 16:58:16

I had to spellcheck 'why' not so long ago too [blish] it just didn't look right!

maresedotes Sat 07-Jun-14 17:05:24

Guest. Saw it and thought it was pronounced gooest, didn't understand what it meant.

TheCunnyFunt Sat 07-Jun-14 17:05:34

Yy to daughter! That's happened to me too! I was scanning all the daughter cards with my eyes thinking 'I'm sure that's spelt wrong, but it's spelt right! Why does it look so wrong!?!'

Nice to know it's not just me though and that it does actually have a name grin

The word bed actually looks like a bed smile

The first time I had to write Edinburgh - I spelt it Edinborough and then stared when the computer corrected it.

Middlesborough has a lot to answer for - lulling me into a false sense of security with my boroughs grin

tilliebob Sat 07-Jun-14 17:55:16

Funny you agree with me CunnyFunt, as I am often called exactly that by my brother gringrin

LizzieVereker Sat 07-Jun-14 19:35:08

Oh blimey bruffin - I was taught the word shape thing on a course to with typography and dyslexia about two years ago. There were about 200 other delegates there - embarrassing if we've all been spouting misinformation ever since, sorry blush

TheCunnyFunt Sun 08-Jun-14 21:54:07

Actually Lizzie I'd say that the way you were taught makes more sense to me!

Tillie grin

bruffin Mon 09-Jun-14 07:54:08

It doesnt make sense at all, you wouldnt be able to read different fonts, different hand writings etc. You certainly wouldnt be able to read the brandenburg link above. We read quicker in lower case because we have more practise at lower case, nothing to do with the shape of the word at all.
Now they have systems to track rapid eye movements they realised we are looking at each indiviual letter. Its called parallel letter recognition

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