Mirror-writing

Because I can mirror-write, I had to read the article in The Psychologist (citation below) by McIntosh and Della Sala on the skill. They look at much of the evidence for two theories: mirror-writing has a motor source, and it has a perception source. Of course, I could not help but compare their picture with my own experience. I am left-handed and dyslexic so I have always thought that my mirror-writing skill stems from one or both or these conditions.

 

This article puts forward the idea that some mirroring is natural for all children learning to write. They have not been required to differentiate mirror images until faced with writing. They learn the shape of letters separately from learning their direction and so there is a shortish time period where mirror-writing is somewhat common.

There is little truth in the idea that mirror-writing is more common in left-handers. Mirror-writing in childhood does of course correlate with age, but the true underlying factor here is the stage of acquisition of writing, with occasional mirror-writing as an intermediate stage between no writing and correct writing …. Specifically, it implies that the general shape of a letter is learned more rapidly than the direction for writing it. The key to understanding this may be to regard mirror-writing not as intrinsically errorful, but as a feat of action generalisation. It is a neat trick for a child to produce a perfect mirrored-form, which they have never been taught, as readily as the correct form that they have been shown repeatedly. For most actions, this mirror-generalisation would be useful, because anything that we do one way may need to be done in reverse at another time. Β… Writing, however, belongs to an unusual, evolutionarily recent, class of actions that have a culturally set directionality, and for which this generalisation is unhelpful. Acquiring the correct direction for writing in oneΒ’s culture may be a matter of stamping out the unwanted alternative after having learned the general shape of the action.

 

It seems that mirror-writing has a motor cause. Most mirror-writers cannot read their mirror script, me included. Reading mirror-writing is a separate skill. Much of the discussion in this article has to do with people changing hands from their dominate one or using both hands simultaneously. I had never done any mirror-writing with my (non-dominate) right hand so, of course, I stopped reading and tried. It does not seem to work for me. Of course, I have to take into consideration that I have never done anything with my right voluntarily Β– why start in my 70s. It may be that the ability to mirror-write may actually be quite common but most people have simply never tried to do it.

 

But I do think that my dyslexia may be involved. I associate my type of dyslexia with a life long problem with identifying whether two images are the same or mirror images from memory (as opposed to have both images in my visual field at the same time or one immediately after the other). Another problem that I have always had is telling whether a turn is clockwise or counter-clockwise without picturing the numbers on a clock and match that image with the motion. Am I going up the numbers or down? Nothing in this article seems to definitely confirm or reject the idea that some types of dyslexia have an affect on mirror perception or motor patterns.

 

ResearchBlogging.org

RD McIntosh, & S Della Sala (2012). Mirror-writing The Psychologist, 25 (10), 742-746

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23 thoughts on “Mirror-writing

  1. If you want to read more on reading and writing and the brain I would recommend Stanislas Dehaene’s book Reading in the Brain. I found his stuff on dyslexia fascinating, he talked about the mirror image stuff which I did not know, and I found intriguing his theory about the evolution of reading in culture and our selves. Dehaene claims that reading came too late in evolutionary processes to have been specifically developed for and therefore has usurped certain structures that were available for use given the right kind of environment (e.g. a literate society).

    I, too, am left-handed and for the fun of it learned to write with the right-hand quite competently and legibly, though still slower and sloppier than my left. I now use the skill as more of a jumping off point to talk about nature/nurture and the openness of various skills that our genes allow us to take advantage of given the right kind of environment and practice. This is really to further ignite discussion about what most students and children are capable of in education/socialization.

    JK: thanks for the recommendation. I think I’ll get the book.

  2. Hi, my name is Angie and I’m 17 years old and left-handed. I discovered my ability to mirror write and read about 3 or 4 years ago. I enjoyed your post and wanted to say that I am not Dyslexic or anything. I can mirror write just as fast as I can regularly. It only took me like 20 minutes to get it down. I also can mirror read extremely well too. Thanks for posting! πŸ™‚

  3. Hi my name is Ann. Im 54 years of age. Im dyslexic, not left handed but can write with my left. Also, I can read and wirte mirror writing. My daughter possesses the same talents but she is left handed also a very good reader. She loves reading romance novel, in one day or sometime several hours. Myself, I have to read something several time in order to get a full understanding. I have gotten better, I teach phonics in an elementary school and dyslexic children to read. My daughter now works for an financial company, she hated Math in school. I have learned that we are rarities with these talents, being dyslexics. Are we?

    • Hello Ann, I no longer post on this blog site and have a new one http://dyslectern.info . You ask if your and your daughters situation is unusual. I would guess not. There is more than one type of dyslexia and none of them is well understood. The genetics of them are even less understood. There are many sites on the web that specialize in dyslectia. Good luck with your life.

  4. I am 77 years o,d and all my remembered life i have been a mirror writer. I am also left handed. In my case, i think it is related to the fact that when i first started infants school in 1941 i had an old-fashioned teacher who believed LHers had the devil in them which had to be driven out. She used physical punishment and tying the offending arm behind my back to change me to a RH writer. My parents caused a fuss when they discovered this, and when i was both mirror writing and trying to read from right to left in books. I ended up ambidextrous but mostly a RH writer, but a fluent and natural mirror writer with the left hand (can’t do it with the right hand). No dyslexia that I am aware of. I have read somewhere trying to change left-handers at a critical time of development in the young brain causes reversals thus resulting in the mirror writing.

  5. I call them “parlor tricks”… I develop unusual or rare behavior thru brute force repitition for fun and challenge. Initially set out to develop ambidextrous writing (naturally right handed) and found ambidextrous mirror-writing was a pretty easy add-on behavior. Writing left handed took a couple of months to become natural. Now no difference. Same short cuts and mistakes with both hands. I write mirror notes on the inside of fogged glass to my daughter. I think almost anyone can develop the skill with focus and repitition. Its impressive to most folks. I don’t know about “natural” occurrence.

    • Most people who mirror-write never had to train themselves – it just was a natural ability. I think they are often left-handed and can write both normally and in mirror writing with the same hand, their left. It does not require practice.

  6. I am right-handed, always have been. I got into the habit of drawing caricature profiles of faces very quickly, almost fast squiggles. But my profiles were always facing left. I couldn’t draw them facing right! Well, I could, but it was much more difficult. (Recently I googled “how to sketch a face in profile” and got 367 images. A whopping 270 of the profiles were facing left!). I figured if I tried to draw a profile with my left hand the caricature would turn out how I want it. Presto! Now facing right. It was easy. So I took the next step and tried writing mirror fashion with the left, and succeeded immediately and effortlessly. I must add I can draw and write simultaneously with both hands, mirror style.

  7. I’m left handed, dyslexic, stutter and when I was a child could read and write mirror writing. As I got older I didn’t keep up with it as it was frowned upon in grade school and I forgot about it. But, I can read upside down and backwards easier than reading normal. If I started mirror writing again I feel like I could pick it back up in a couple hours.

    • I bet it takes no longer than 10 mins. It took me very little time when I tried it after many, many years.

  8. I am 42, right handed and non dyslexic. Some 10 years ago I discovered my ability in mirror writing. I can write it with moderate speed and very readible without need to train. Because most of the explainations related it to left handed or dyslexia, how about my situation?

  9. Im 19 ,(right handed amd non dislexic )discovered that I could mirror write just 5 days ago. today i can mirror write quite easily(with a little practice)……..When I went through my kindergarten books I realised that I had made many mistakes regarding the letters s,h,b,d and n, writing them in their mirror images…….. what happened to me?

    • Perhaps you are ambidexterous and just use you right hand through training and habit. The problem of not being good at telling a thing from its mirror image is not common (I believe) in people who are not left handed or dyslexic. Maybe some other reader has something to contribute.

  10. i am right handed and no dyslexia, i am 46 yrs old, i am a spiritual person, and last night as i was in bed meditating, in my minds eye i was writing in reverse right to left in a mirror image, i felt as if i needed to get out of bed and do it on paper, but i was tired and decided to just keep doing it in my head till i fell asleep! the next day i forgot all about it until around 4:00 pm and remembered i was doing it in my head, so i grabbed some paper and pen and tried to do it, and to my surprise! i instantly could write full paragraphs perfectly legible! then i wondered could i do this in left hand? i never used my left hand to write anything, ever in my life! and again to my surprise, i could do it! though it is not as pretty as my right handed writing, but for never using my left hand, it was overwhelmingly legible! and its all in a mirror image, meaning if you hold it to a mirror, it reads normal. personally to me it is directly linked to using both sides of the brain at the same time? and yes my third eye is open! and the ability to mirror write is a gift! well it feels like a gift to me? i work very hard to expand my mind, and it seems to be a product of theses efforts? just my thoughts! πŸ™‚

  11. I was right handed until the age of 36. I had torn my bracial plexis nerve in my right arm. had to learn to write as a lefty, 3years later i could hold a pen with my right hand when i wrote something it was so sloppy i couldnt read it but i tried over and over-then i noticed it was all backwards yeppers i mirror write with my right hand now…

  12. Thanks for the good read. I’m 33 now, and probably 6 or 7 years ago, I was at work, and we were busy. I was grabbing papers with my right hand (dominant), and writing numbers and notes down with my left (it didn’t have to be very legible). One of my co-workers came up and looked at the paper I was writing on, and he noticed it was in mirror. I thought this odd, and wrote some more things, all in mirror. Sloppy, but my handwriting is bad on the best of days. I can read mirror writing with no problems as well. No traumatic brain injury, stroke, or dyslexia, and in fact I could read before I was two years old. Kind of a fun thing to stumble upon by accident, and interesting to learn more about πŸ™‚

  13. Ξ™ am dyslexic and first mirror wrote as a small child, it was fun and a need. I learned to write with right hand but it was also a need to write with the left sometimes.
    As an adult i design and write simultaneously (the same things/words) with both hands: with the left hand i am mirror writing and with the right hand i am normallu writign. It is terrible, terrible fun, a great satisfaction. I am 43 now. Last years after several dreadful events i started fumbling my words, reversing numbers, and word letters. It is not funny, i feel awful. What is funny is i am a novelist specializign in pastiches (small and perfect literary imitations of other writers) which is stoutly believe it has to do with dyslexia.

    sometimes i feel stupid because i can not follow a manual (i also have A.D.D.) or orders, or lose my way in a straight road…hugs to all, Ntina, Greece

  14. I am 91, resident of a retirement center. Two other women (one 85, one 92) and I get together weekly to study French. Not long ago we found all three of us have been able to mirror-write since our youth. All are right-handed. Our situation rather punctures the Australian estimate of some years ago – one mirror-writer in 6500 people.

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