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Medical You are reading left-to-right

  1. Dec 23, 2005 #1
    My ability to scan left-to-right surpasses that of scanning right-to-left. Could this phenomenon be substantially brain based, my having learned (neurologically developed) to read left-to-right? Do peoples who differ in direction of reading differ substantially in brain structure, like a correlation to handedness? Does this have anything to do with "neurolinguistic programming"?
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  3. Dec 23, 2005 #2
    I'm just about positive left to right reading is arbitrary.

    I've read that Mayan or Aztec hieroglyphs were read in alternating directions. When you came to the end of a line, you dropped down to the next line and read in the opposite direction back to the other side of the page.

    I think I heard Chinese writing is read top to bottom.

    Once you get into any particular habit it is very difficult to do it any other way. But I don't think our brains are predisposed to a particular direction of visual layout of information.
  4. Dec 23, 2005 #3
    ...but does a particular direction of visual layout of information predispose our brains physically?

    Those pre-Columbian Native Americans surely had a most efficient scanning system - I sometimes find myself pouring similarly for particular words.
  5. Dec 23, 2005 #4


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    Well, people who read right-to-left (Jews) and people who read top-to-bottom and right-to-left (Chinese and Japanese) test higher on IQ than we western goys, so maybe....?:wink:
  6. Dec 23, 2005 #5
    Yes, in the sense that anything you do over and over becomes "wired" that way. It's kind of like a path through tall grass. Once you've found a way through, the next time it's easiest to go by the same route. Each time you walk through you flatten more grass and it's easier and easier to take that route rather than any other possible one.

    Someone just explained this to me in another thread. When one neuron fires out of several that might fire, the one that fires gets more nourishment from the surrounding glial cells. That makes it healthier and zippier than the nearby neurons and much more likely to fire than any others the next time.

    I was just thinking that when I wrote it out: it's not a bad idea for faster reading, except it would require us to learn to read and write "mirror" writing. Keyboards would have to have twice as many keys. Typos could get very complex.
  7. Dec 23, 2005 #6


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    Less specifically, the Far East, tend to use a top-down approach, Arabic languages tend to use a right-to-left, and and western Europeans use left to right.

    I would think it is from learning to use your scanning better, from reading. I bet you the Chinese are better at up-down, and Jews are better at right-left.
  8. Dec 23, 2005 #7
    mmm the chinese read top-down...right-left and left-right...depending on what country you live in....the reason is because its the coomputer age.
    Historically speaking-the calligraphy is written top-dowwn right-left...

    but in teh western world when we first started relying on the computer it was written left to right...

    Doesn't really matter...i think the reason middle eastern- and asian countries fair better is because of the education system they have.
    Also perhaps they like reading small width lines...

    i have a chinese calligraphy poem on my wall about anger managment and its written 6 words per line =] ...so maybe that has a factor to it. The # of words not per sentence but per line.
  9. Dec 28, 2005 #8
    My view is that it is simply a learned convention that we become comfortable with (as opposed to some neurological disposition we are born with). I have studied both Japanese and English and I have found you can become quite comfortable reading text in either direction. Actually, the only time Japanese reads from right to left is when it is also read "vertically" from top to bottom...they also have an alternative "left to right" reading system that functions the same way as our western system does (and is used more often in publications). So in Japanese you literally learn to read in "both" directions depending on the situation (and from my experiences and those of my classmates it's not a problem to make this adjustment, given a little practice :wink: ).
  10. Dec 31, 2005 #9


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    I side with those describing reinforced positive feedback, allowing you to read easier in whichever direction you originally learned. This would be similar to other learned activities; writing, playing an instrument, kicking a ball. Whichever way you learn these activities, they are reinforced with repetition. Think of the person who lost the use of their hands and learned to write, to drive a vehicle, eat with utensils, and to paint using a brush; using their feet. They become quite proficient at this. How easy would it be to use your feet, even to pick something up?

    Zooby's description for the mechanism of this reinforcement is quite reasonable. I've also heard it explained this way.

    Actually various semitic languages read from right-to-left, including Hebrew, Arabic, and older ones like; Syriac, Aramaic and Phoenician.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2006
  11. Jan 2, 2006 #10
    I would like for people to understand that there is a large mistake about foreign language and how they are read.

    When it comes to japanese comics and other media, the squares are read from right to left, not the text. The characters of their alphabet are read similar as to english. The only difference is when their characters are being written from top to bottom which can be done in english but seems quite odd.

    Hebrew is a whole different story.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2006
  12. Jan 2, 2006 #11


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    Thanks for that, but I wonder how does it relate to the question in this thread?:confused:
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2006
  13. Jan 2, 2006 #12
    There was actually a section in a book I read recently that had some writing (in English) which was in this format. It went on for a couple pages, by the end of those few pages I could read in that format much more quickly than I could at first, although not as quickly as I can normally. Based on my experience I think that given a couple days of practice most people could probably get up to their normal reading speed, if not faster.
  14. Jan 2, 2006 #13
    I assume the individual words in the right to left lines were read left to right, though. Is that correct? Reversing the order of letters in words is very difficult for me to decipher. I don't think I could do it smoothly even in a couple of days.
  15. Jan 2, 2006 #14
    No, the left-to-right lines had letters and words which read left-to-right and the right-to-left lines had letters and words which read right-to-left. I think you'd find that you'd get used to it quicker than you think, it's disconcerting at first but you can work past that.

    BTW, the book is Furious Gulf by Gregory Benford if you want to have a look, pp 72-73 in my copy. It's the 5th book in a series though, so there's a lot of back story ;)
  16. Jan 2, 2006 #15
    Wow, I'm surprised. But I suspect you're right about getting used to it faster than I assume.
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