How Do We Learn To Read?

If you’re bored, take part in this interesting study on how people learn to read. I’m not sure the test measures exactly what it sets out to, but I don’t want to say anything more so as to skew the results. I found it from Maud Newton.


  1. Ok, now that was cool!

  2. I’m too old to participate, apparently!

  3. Oh yeah, I forgot about that — they said over 40 and they wouldn’t count it? What, does your brain turn to mush or something after 40?! Isn’t half of the entire population (and more than half of people who can read) over 40? Extremely weird requirement…

  4. Why the age requirement? I need to add something to the FAQ.

    People are all different. They can be right-handed or left-handed, old or young, English-speaking or not, etc. If people were like electrons and all identical, cognitive science would be as “easy” as physics. But they aren’t and it isn’t.

    Imagine you are an artist. You would probably learn to draw one thing (say, apples) first, then try something else (maybe oranges) and keep working outward until you can draw anything (we’re assuming you are very ambitious). If you just started with the goal of drawing everything, you would have difficulty refining any one technique.

    This is similar for cognitive science. We tend to focus on right-handed English speakers ages 18-35, both because this is a relative homogenous group AND because it’s a group easy to study (college students, our typical subjects, in the US tend to speak English, be 18-35, and most people are right-handed). Once we have a particular phenomenon somewhat worked out in that group, we branch out to children, older adults, people in other countries, etc.

    People don’t like to think about it, but aging does start by about 35 or 40 years old. This changes how you perform in an experiment. If there are lots of 40+ participants in a given experiment, I can look at aging effects, which is great. I do that whenever I can. In this experiment, though, I don’t anticipate that. I will probably only get just enough people over 40 to muddy up the results, but not enough to do any meaningful analyses. So that means I probably won’t even analyze the results of the 40+ crowd.

    Which isn’t to say you can’t participate for the fun of it. I just don’t want to waste your time.

  5. Oh hi Josh — thanks for commenting! And thanks for the explanation.

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