The QWERTY Effect: How stereo-typing shapes the mental lexicon.


The QWERTY keyboard mediates communication for millions of people. Here we investigated whether differences in the way words are typed correspond to differences in their meanings. Some words are spelled with more right-side keyboard letters, others with more left-side letters. We tested whether asymmetries in the way people interact with keys on the right and left of the keyboard influence their evaluations of the emotional valence of the words. In Experiment 1, we found a relationship between emotional valence and QWERTY key position, across three languages. Words with more right-hand letters were rated as more positive in meaning on average than words with more left-hand letters. In Experiment 2 we replicated this pattern in nonce words. Although these data are correlational, our results suggest that the QWERTY keyboard is shaping the meanings of words. Widespread typing introduces a new mechanism by which semantic changes in language can arise.

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