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If you've ever read Encyclopedia Brown books, you'll be familiar with the backwards writing in the back of the book that explains the solution to the case.

When I was in my mid-late teens (I don't remember the age exactly) I decided to teach myself to read/write upside down (and backwards?). I can read most text fairly well when the page is upside down (and have no problems with the upside down unicode text people post on Facebook), and I am able to write upside down with relative ease.

However, since developing that skill I have fairly extreme difficulties remembering how to write lowercase b's and d's, and I've had to use a trick I've heard dyslexics use and I remind myself that a 'b' points towards the end of a word.

I have no problems reading words with the characters, or typing them on the computer when I want a 'b' or a 'd', only when I'm writing it.

Did I give myself a very limited form of dyslexia?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Wayne! I'll let someone with a bit more experience provide an answer, but to add a comment: dyslexia is much more complicated than just swapping bs and ds, and it not something one can "give" to themselves. Nonetheless, you ask a very interesting question! $\endgroup$ – Josh Feb 1 '12 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ I use a method for encrypting words using only numbers (2 digits is 1 character though), I have been thinking on putting effort on fluently read it but I am now worried about the drawbacks... As today, I can write pretty fast, but reading takes me some time per word (~2 seconds) $\endgroup$ – ajax333221 Oct 11 '14 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ @ajax333221 I doubt you'd get much negative transfer, since numbers are completely different symbols. Though you might find that you read math as words ;) $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Oct 11 '14 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ cute girl- "here this is my number 32132131 :3" me (angry)- "YOU SAID WHAT TO MY MOMMA?!?" $\endgroup$ – ajax333221 Oct 11 '14 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ Obviously, this is an old post. But you may be interested to know that I have been using "upside down reading and writing" to help visual dyslexics learn how to read. I guess it works both ways..... See pireading.com $\endgroup$ – user7165 Nov 27 '14 at 15:50
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Negative Transfer

A common scientific term to describe what you are talking about is called negative transfer. I.e., where learning one skill actually results in lower performance on another skill. This is contrasted with positive transfer, when learning one skill facilitates performance on another skill. In general (although I don't have refs on hands) positive transfer is generally a greater effect than negative transfer. Negative transfer tends to be localised to particular aspects of the task (e.g., b's and d's).

For a extended encyclopedia entry see Perkins and Salomon's (1992) article on transfer of learning.

Research on Mirror Reading and Writing

There's even research specifically on reading and writing upside down and back to front (e.g., see google scholarfor 'mirror writing' and 'mirror reading'). I haven't read much of this literature.

To take but one article, Gottfried, Sancar, and Chatterjee (2003) discuss acquired mirror writing.

They note, perhaps relevant to your question, that:

Young children, developmental dyslexics, and some healthy left-handed adults may produce mirror text.

I assume that in the above cases (as opposed to your case where it is acquired with deliberate practice), writing in reverse is involuntary, in which case I suppose you could describe writing a few letters back to front involuntarily as representing a symptom shared with some developmental dyslexics.

As an interesting historical aside, they note that

Perhaps the most celebrated mirror writer, Leonardo da Vinci, generated over 5000 notebook pages in reverse.

So, you're in good company.

References

  • Gottfried, J., Sancar, F., and Chatterjee, A. (2003). Acquired mirror writing and reading: evidence for reflected graphemic representations. Neuropsychologia, 41(1):96-107. FREE PDF
  • Perkins, D. and Salomon, G. (1992). Transfer of learning. International encyclopedia of education. FREE LINK
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    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer, and now I have a term that actually describes what I did. An extra +1 for the da Vinci reference. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Feb 2 '12 at 1:17
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    $\begingroup$ "I can't stoooq!" — Leonardo ba Vinci $\endgroup$ – NiteCyper Sep 25 '13 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ Learning to type Dvorak degraded my QWERTY noticeably. Now I wonder if this is a valid example of the "negative transfer" you've mentioned. $\endgroup$ – wim Nov 2 '16 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ I have been using dvorak for over ten years and never felt a downgrade on standard keyboard. As they say, it's like learning another language: do you forget your first learned tongue? A useful reference for those interesed in dvorak is the dvzine $\endgroup$ – nilon Jul 24 '17 at 2:34
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    $\begingroup$ As an elementary school teacher for almost 30 years, I have had my share of students who struggle with reading. One of the first things I do with a struggling reader is turn the book upside down. Many times, the child, who has had difficulties reading, is able to read more fluently and accurately. I never knew how and why it worked, but it does. It is good to finally find some information that supports this "crazy" method that I have used time and time again. $\endgroup$ – Cheryl Wild Apr 17 at 17:32

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