What’s happening in our brain when we think to type one word but our fingers type a similar one?


As someone that does a lot of writing for a living, this is something I come across at least a few times per week. I’ve always wondered why but never thought to look it up.

As an example that just happened, I meant to type the word “confidence”. The rest of the sentence was formed perfectly but in place of “confidence”, I typed “condense”. Wot?

Perhaps even more strange, I never catch these weird mistakes until I’m proof reading my work later. I see the words appearing on the screen as I’m typing them and even though I was intending to type “confidence”, my fingers type “condense”, see that word show up on the screen and my brain goes ‘yep, confidence, that’s right’.

I assume this is a common thing but what gives? Most of my work is done on a PC in Google Docs so while there is spell check, there’s no autocorrect.

Possibly relevant, my typing speed usually tests somewhere around 120wpm. I’m not about to set a world record but I’m also not pecking at the keyboard with two fingers. Since I’m not really focusing on one word at a time and often even thinking about other things while I type, maybe it’s a typing equivalent of accidentally blending two words together when we speak?

In: Biology

While typing, your brain isn‘t focused on individual words, but whole sentences. It‘s similar to skimming while reading. Have you seen that image that was everywhere on social media a few years ago, of a sentence where every word had the correct beginning and ending sounds, but the middle of the words are nonsense?

In addition to this, the act of typing takes a lot of subconscious attention. You‘re moving 9-10 digits with muscle memory while converting your thoughts into those movements, typographical errors are very common, which is why typing speed is usually expressed in corrected wpm.

TL:DR, your language center isn’t as good at multitasking as it pretends to be, but disguises this by by assuming that a word that looks like what it is expecting to see is correct without scrutinizing it. Did you notice the extra by in this paragraph?

How many Fs do you see in the text below?