Saturday, August 22, 2009

Human brain's amazing power of lexical analysis

I was reading an old - May'08 - issue of India Today, when I saw an ad by Future Brands. The ad included a sentence, with spaces between the words removed. It looked like this (click here to look at a scan of the original ad)

I was impressed by the human brain's ability to successfully perform lexical analysis on a continuous stream of characters, as a sentence (although the color difference and the division into 3 rows provide help). When I gave this stream to Google Search, it gave up (again, it must be remembered that Google Search didn't get help from the color differences and the division into 3 rows).

I created some mockups in PowerPoint, and by editing the scan, to see the effects of
  1. Color variations
  2. Font differences
The mockups look like this, and it can be seen that the more parameters by which individual words are separated from each other (font-color, font-size, font-type, spacing, etc.), the easier it becomes for the brain to read them as separate words

And yes, it's slightly more difficult to perform lexical analysis on the string, if less number of parameters are different - like below


  1. The version they use in the ad is significantly easier to read than your variations. The colours and contrasts are 'friendlier'.

  2. @Anonymous

    Agree. Higher contrast in my variations actually seem to be distracting, especially the variation in black and red.