Spontaneous Emergence of Legibility in Writing Systems: The Case of Orientation Anisotropy

Spontaneous Emergence of Legibility in Writing Systems: The Case of Orientation Anisotropy Cultural forms are constrained by cognitive biases, and writing is thought to have evolved to fit basic visual preferences, but little is known about the history and mechanisms of that evolution. Cognitive constraints have been documented for the topology of script features, but not for their orientation. Orientation anisotropy in human vision, as revealed by the oblique effect, suggests that cardinal (vertical and horizontal) orientations, being easier to process, should be overrepresented in letters. As this study of 116 scripts shows, the orientation of strokes inside written characters massively favors cardinal directions, and it is organized in such a way as to make letter recognition easier: Cardinal and oblique strokes tend not to mix, and mirror symmetry is anisotropic, favoring vertical over horizontal symmetry. Phylogenetic analyses and recently invented scripts show that cultural evolution over the last three millennia cannot be the sole cause of these effects. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Cognitive Science - A Multidisciplinary Journal Wiley

Spontaneous Emergence of Legibility in Writing Systems: The Case of Orientation Anisotropy

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Publisher
Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Copyright
Copyright © 2018 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
ISSN
0364-0213
eISSN
1551-6709
D.O.I.
10.1111/cogs.12550
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Cultural forms are constrained by cognitive biases, and writing is thought to have evolved to fit basic visual preferences, but little is known about the history and mechanisms of that evolution. Cognitive constraints have been documented for the topology of script features, but not for their orientation. Orientation anisotropy in human vision, as revealed by the oblique effect, suggests that cardinal (vertical and horizontal) orientations, being easier to process, should be overrepresented in letters. As this study of 116 scripts shows, the orientation of strokes inside written characters massively favors cardinal directions, and it is organized in such a way as to make letter recognition easier: Cardinal and oblique strokes tend not to mix, and mirror symmetry is anisotropic, favoring vertical over horizontal symmetry. Phylogenetic analyses and recently invented scripts show that cultural evolution over the last three millennia cannot be the sole cause of these effects.

Journal

Cognitive Science - A Multidisciplinary JournalWiley

Published: Jan 1, 2018

Keywords: ; ; ; ;

References

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