QWERTY Effect: How typing makes us love certain words, hate others

Has typing influenced the way we feel about certain words? It’s known as the “QWERTY Effect,” and according to a group of researchers from Germany, it causes us to have an emotional reaction towards certain words.

The QWERTY keyboard is not efficient. In fact, it was designed to be inefficient. The designers put more tricky-to-type letter pairs on the left side to slow the pace of typists in order to prevent key jams on old fashioned typewriters. This layout may have worked its way into our subconscious, making us dislike words that require more typing on the left side than the right. Modern keyboards don’t suffer from such mechanical jams (unless a crumb gets stick underneath a key), and there are much more efficient keyboard layouts available today, but we’ve become so used to typing on our QWERTYs.

Researchers believe this inefficiency may have impacted our emotional associations with words that sit to the right and left of the T, G, and B divide. The cause of the QWERTY Effect is believed to stem from people making an emotional connection with a word depending on whether a word is easy or hard to type. Words that consist of letters from the right side of the keyboard are often viewed more positively: pool versus desert.

A past study published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review tested the QWERTY Effect, even asking English, Spanish, and Dutch speakers to rate words. They found words that used right-hand letters were favored. They even asked people to rate made up words like “pleek” and “ploke.”

“People responsible for naming new products, brands, and companies might do well to consider the potential advantages of consulting their keyboards and choosing the ‘right’ name,” they wrote.

This latest study from David Garcia at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Markus Strohmaier at the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences came to similar conclusions: The more easily a word is to type, the more people favor the word. Their study, however, focused more on known products, like books, movies, and websites.

“In our datasets we confirm that products with more right side letters and fewer left side letters have higher average ratings,” they write. Garcia and Strohmaier are eager for more scientists to weigh-in on this correlation.

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