Touch-typists 'use an autopilot'
Published 28/10/2010 | 19:24
Nimble-fingered touch-typists catch errors without even noticing them using an unconscious "autopilot", research has shown.
Scientists made the discovery after conducting experiments designed to separate what typists see on the screen and feel with their fingers.
In the first, the researchers secretly used a computer program to insert random false "typo" errors or correct mistakes typists had actually made.
They found that typists generally blamed themselves for the errors the program had inserted, and took credit for the corrected errors.
But their fingers told a different story.
Usually, a typist's fingers slow down when a wrong key is hit. This occurred as normal in the experiment, and was unaffected by computer tampering. Fingers slowed after an actual error, but not when a false typo appeared on the screen.
"We all know we do some things on autopilot, from walking to doing familiar tasks like making coffee and, in this study, typing," said Professor Gordon Logan, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, who led the research.
"What we don't know as scientists is how people are able to control their autopilots. The remarkable thing we found is that these processes are disassociated. The hands know when the hands make an error, even when the mind does not."
The findings were reported in the journal Science.