The researchers have a pretty good idea why that is.
A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered a problem none of us even knew existed. Despite people’s experiences with all 26 letters of the alphabet in various forms — cursive, block, uppercase, lowercase — a specific version of one letter causes people fits when they must pick it out of a line-up.
That letter? Lowercase “G.”
But not the one we learned to write: Rather, the “looptail” form of the letter, which is popular in print and was deemed the “most common” form of the letter in the study. The researchers found that, of the 16 participants who had just read text populated with looptail “G”s, only one of them was able to write the form of the letter they just saw. In fact, half of them wrote the incorrect (opentail) version.
When asked to ID the correct form of the letter out of a quartet of choices, only 7 out of 25 were able to do so — about the same number that would have identified it correctly at random.
If you’re unable to discern between the looptail version and the one you learned to write — you’re not alone. In fact, the two are used in place of one another so often you may not quickly notice a difference. Or realize that the common typeface Times New Roman uses the looptail version.
Johns Hopkins decided to have some fun with their study’s conclusions with this quick quiz.
Pop quiz: Our cognitive scientists explored why most people can read this common printed version of the letter "g",… https://t.co/Qd947LmoYy— Johns Hopkins University (@Johns Hopkins University) 1522866648
If you’d prefer to be utterly confused in a more convenient way, here are four iterations of the looptail letter in question that you’ve seen your entire life, with only one correct version. Any idea as to which could be the correct one?
The conundrum has some frustrated users who have arbitrarily decided that the letter in question is at fault as if all the other letters are somehow “normal.”
Johns Hopkins mercifully shared the correct form:
For those who played our game, here he is the correct version of the "looptail g"! Thanks for playing! https://t.co/tySOueEGbx— Johns Hopkins University (@Johns Hopkins University) 1522943478
As for the reason why none of us can properly ID that letter? Well, this Twitter user has a theory:
@JohnsHopkins Maybe 75% of people got it wrong because literally no one writes it like that— Allyl Alcohol (@Allyl Alcohol) 1522993189
The Johns Hopkins research team support this theory, as senior author Michael McCloskey offers in the study that we’re fairly oblivious to this form of the letter because we never actually had to write it.
He also spoke to the fact that while we may assume we know such basic info, we don’t really know what we don’t know until we’re put to a test like this.
We learned that fact the hard way.