Have You Ever Had Wordnesia?

Have you ever written or typed a word, one you've typed a million times before, and suddenly been struck by how odd it is spelled or how weird it looks? Don't worry - that's totally normal. And, there's even a word for it: Wordnesia!


The problem is directly tied to the issue that arises when you can't spell a simple word, or when very familiar words suddenly seem like flummoxing entities you can't just get quite right. There is a down side: we don't know why it happens. Typically, though, it doesn't seem to be a major side effect of anything alarming and is, more or less, common and fleeting. 

Matthew J.X Malady, who has been researching the glitch ever since he couldn't remember how to spell "project", interviewed Charles A Weaver III, a a psychology and neuroscience professor at Baylor University to try and get to the bottom of this strange phenomena. 

The first thing one should realize, according to Dr. Weaver, is that while we read we have a very practiced part of our brain that responds more or less automatically. This explains why, most of the time, we can still get through reading something that has spelling mistakes. 

But where does Dr. Weaver think this strange issue stems from? "My guess, in the phenomenon you’re talking about, is that, very briefly, the automatic parts hit a speed bump and go, ‘that can’t be right." Think of kind of like breathing or blinking. You do it constantly without thinking twice about it. But, the moment that you think about blinking or breathing, it suddenly becomes the focus of what you're doing and causes some disruptions in the automatic part.

Basically, "anytime that you engage conscious monitoring of those parts that ought to be automatic, you get a hiccup," says Dr. Weaver. So, when you brain hiccups while reading or writing, you suddenly forget how to write words you've written a million times without thinking.

I should also mention that, while writing this blog post, I have stopped multiple times and misspelled many common words including, but not limited to: misspelled, blinking, and automatically. Weird how that goes, huh?

The above image is from Flickr user popofatticus and is liscensed under creative commons 2.0.