Today much of our word production happens not in our throats and mouths but on our keyboards. Can typing shape a word’s meaning? The answer is yes, according to a new paper by linguists Kyle Jasmin and Daniel Casasanto called The QWERTY Effect: How typing shapes the meanings of words.
They argue that because of the QWERTY keyboard’s asymmetrical shape (more letters on the left than the right), words dominated by right-side letters become more likable. The effect may arise from the fact that letter combinations that fall on the right side of the keyboard tend to be easier to type than those on the left.
The QWERTY layout dates back to 1868. Until then, some letters that were frequently used were too close to one other on the typewriter keyboard, and, when typed in rapid succession, the keys sometimes stuck together.
Jasmin and his colleague Daniel Casasanto, a social psychologist at The New School for Social Research, knew from previous research that the difficulty of using an object affected how positively or negatively people viewed it. The effect is called fluency, and it even seems to affect abstractions such as people’s names. The more difficult it is to pronounce a person’s name, for example, the less likely it is that they will advance in their career. To know more, read Personal Names, Such Important Words!