Monday, November 07, 2005

Stroop Effect at Work

At University today I noticed an interesting reaction on my part that seems like an offshoot of the Stroop Effect. I was installing some software and came upon a [Y/n] prompt. I wanted to hit the 'Y' key, and found a moment's hesitation when I glanced down at the keyboard.

I'll start by talking about German keyboards for a moment. For the most part, letters are identical to a US qwerty layout. Except that the y and z keys are switched. Symbol keys are all over the place compared to the U.S. layout as well, but those aren't too relevant to this story.

So when I wanted to say "Yes, install the package in question" my finger reached for the Y, only to hesitate when I looked down and saw my finger hovering over a Z. Of course, the keyboard was set up to behave as a US layout in software on the machine in question so I hit the key after the small hesitation. I realized I have the same hesitation on the main keyboard I use, which is a U.K. layout where some symbols on the number row are different. If I ever look at the keyboard I hesitate before typing a key, despite the fact that my finger is there, ready to hit the key.

I wonder if anyone has done any experiments on this kind of thing.

While on the topic of European keyboards; alternate layouts don't bother me, but the Enter key does. Instead of being two keys wide, it's two keys tall. This is really frustrating since I tend to hit the left half of the key, so when I first got here I kept getting weird symbols instead of newlines. D'oh!


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