Andrew Sullivan today passes along a link to a study on the QWERTY Effect with a false, inane comment.
Here’s my reply to him:
These authors of the QWERTY Effect have identified a valid phenomenon, but they are utterly clueless as to the explanation (as I wrote the other day on my blog when I first read the report). Just think about it: does it make *any* sense at all that letter combinations on the right side of a keyboard are “easier to type” and therefore words that contain those letters have a more positive feeling? It’s preposterous.
It’s an utterly thoughtless hypothesis to explain something whose explanation would have been obvious if the authors had considered one shred of evidence from the study of sound symbolism or phonosemantics. (Google “sound symbolism” or Margaret Magnus, Ph.D., the MIT-educated linguist who demonstrated the essential validity of Plato’s sound symbolism hypothesis that’s 2,000 years old in her groundbreaking doctoral dissertation.)
Even if you only accept a weak version of the phonosemantic hypothesis and not a strong version (e.g., quasi-Platonic), it’s more than adequate to explain the QWERTY effect. There are more vowels on the right than the left, and vowels generally are more positive than consonants, with unrestricted airflow giving the sounds a more Divine quality according to sacred word traditions in various esoteric religious traditions.
The letters on the right hand side of the keyboard have sounds which happen to be associated with more positive affects (the soft, more precise, particular, and peculiar unvoiced labial “p,” on the right contrasted to the brutish, bawdy, and blasting sound of the voiced “b.” The words which are comprised of sounds carry an emotional or subtle resonance with the sound’s symbol — e.g., stopped consonants tending somewhat to refer more to endings and disruptions and glides tending to refer to sustained patterns.)
You don’t have to be a Kabbalist to see the ridiculousness of this paper’s explanation (although the Kabbalists know a lot more about sound than these scientists seemingly ignorant of the relevant literature).
I’m giving you, Andrew, a break because your post consisted in only one word — “Explained” — but it was a very poor choice of word.