20 October 2005

The difference between Looking and Reading

Here's a fun little exercise. Time yourself as you say the names out loud of each of the colors in the table below.

Now try a similar exercise. This time, there aren't blocks, but words. Don't read the word, but say the name of the color of the letters. Time yourself for this one as well.

If you are pretty good at English, it will probably take you much longer to do the second set than the first. Why is that? Well, it takes a lot of effort for the brain to suppress the inclination to read. As you go through the second set you have to keep shutting that tendency out.

I'd be interested to know if the same thing is true of pictographic languages, but I'd guess that it is.

Anyway, there's always a bit of a problem of priority when images are mixed with words. In the past, the title was used to clarify the image, or direct the viewer's attention to a certain aspect of it. The potential for tension between title and image caused some artists to choose not to name their pieces at all. Other artists have chosen to exaggerate the situation by mixing images and text. The following is a good example of this: When I hear the word Culture by Barbara Kruger, 1985.


Kate said...

I did the color exercise a couple of times... amazing. On the second one, I'd be fine for the first 4-5 colors and then my brain would forget and I'd slowdown and get tripped up. Again, amazing.

I need to have Rebecca and Emily try it and see what happens with them since they don't read, but do recognize some words by sight.

nasser said...

i liked the idea of trying this in different languages. i reproduced the excersise on my blog in arabic to see how that would be.

hope you dont mind, i borrowed your color table image hehe

Mary Ann said...

I don't mind at all.

I'll check up on your site to see what people think.

Anonymous said...

ok, I feel odd. I did the excersize and took longer on the first one- I'd start off at a good clip but start tripping over my words by the last line.
The second one I did faster even though I thought I was doing it wrong and started over.


Mary Ann said...

Hmmm, Terra. Maybe it's wedding stress?

Congratulations ;)