A little game about perception

Read the following text:

       Finished Files are the Re-
      sult of Years of Scientif-
      ic Study Combined with the
      Experience of Many Years

Got it? Makes no sense, huh? Don't worry about that. Read it again and just count the number of times the letter 'F' occurs.

How many did you count?

If you counted less than six, go read it again and count the number of times the word 'of' occurs. In a group of 20 people, 2/3 of them will see the letter 'F' occurring only three times. Often, you can have them read the paragraph over and over and they'll still miss the word 'of.' You probably get the idea, but in a group of people, it's a pretty dramatic example of how all of us perceive reality in different ways.

[Source: The Secret Art of Managing Your Boss, part 1 -- I'm curious to know why most people, including myself, ignore the 'of' in this test.]

6 Comments

It's strange, isn't it? When I first learned about this, the explanation I received was that because the 'f' in 'of' sounds like a 'v', most people ignore it because they're *reading* the words and counting the 'f' occurences, rather than strictly counting the 'f' occurences.

Don't know whether that's the final answer, but it helps...

Wow, thanks a lot, now I know for sure that I'm a good English reader !
I don't think the same game in german would lead to the same conclusion...

About the reason why we skip the "of" :

I can not find again this recent article about reading - the question was : do we read letters, or words ? Indeed, a bit of both. Several experiments can be set up to show partial evidence of both reading model.

One of the more astonishing experiment set up was this one :

A people is asked to read a text on a computer screen. The computer, via a camera, knows where the reader's eye focuses. And it *hides* N letters around the focused point. The fast eye movements are slow enough to let the computer update the screen before the reader notices any glitch : letters pop out of shadow, ready for being read. *******nderstood ? *****

That is the astonishing set up :o).

Depending of the number N of hidden letters, the speed of reading is more or less altered.

Considering the average length of english words, you can set N high enough so that most of the little words like "of" or "and" are revealed most of the time. In this case, the reading is *not altered at all*, but you notice that these little words are actually never focused by the reader : they're always in the edge of the visible area, out of actual focus spot. They help reading without being actually read.

When you decrease N, you eventually reduce the speed of reading, but I forgot what the article said about that, sorry :o)


But I can now imagine why we can't notice the F in "of". Because looking for the letter F requires eye focus on "of", and even when we look for a letter, we can't change our reading method - which is built of skipping of this word...

Wah! I just counted 3. Now I feel... well, as dumb as the rest of us ;-)

Isn't the 1/3rd of the population who gets it right the ones who played the game before ? Or are they in fact computers ? Some kind of anti-turing-test...

I must say I've played this little game before, yet I didn't count the occurences of 'of'.

It also reminds me of the stroop effect, which shows how you differentiate meaning and appearances of words : http://www.apa.org/science/stroop.html

I counted six. I read the phrase backwards to reduce the meaning of the words and the syntax.

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