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. Why Are Letters The Shape That They Are

The English Alphabet - more complex than a,b,c.
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Apr 04, 2006
In a new study forthcoming in the May 2006 issue of The American Naturalist, Mark A. Changizi and his coauthors, Qiang Zhang, Hao Ye, and Shinsuke Shimojo, from the California Institute of Technology explore the hypothesis that human visual signs have been cross-culturally selected to reflect common contours in natural scenes that humans have evolved to be good at seeing.

"[We] analyzed one hundred writing systems, Chinese characters, and non-linguistic visual signs, and found that these very different types of human visual signs possess a similar shape structure," explain the researchers.

Comparing human visual signs to natural scenes, the researchers demonstrate a high correlation between the most common contour combinations found in nature and the most common contours found in letters and symbols across cultures. For example, contours resembling an "L" or "X" are more common in both human visual signs and natural scenes than anything resembling an asterisk (*).

The researchers also examined motor and visual skills and the shapes that are easiest to see and form. They make a strong case that the shape signature for human visual signs is primarily selected for reading, at the expense of writing.

Related Links
California Institute of Technology
The American Naturalist

Technology Terror And Viagra Could Warp Sex And Relationships
San Francisco (AFP) Apr 03, 2006
Cyber-sex, war, and erection-inducing drugs are a recipe for a more socially inept, violent culture, according to a panel of top US sex experts. The concern was raised as researchers discussed "The Future of Sex" at an unprecedented summit near Santa Fe, New Mexico, late last week.

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