Brief Report

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 499-504

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The QWERTY Effect: How typing shapes the meanings of words.

  • Kyle JasminAffiliated withInstitute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College LondonLaboratory of Brain and Cognition, National Institute of Mental HealthNeurobiology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics
  • , Daniel CasasantoAffiliated withNeurobiology of Language Department, MPI for PsycholinguisticsDonders Institute for Brain, Cognition, & BehaviourDepartment of Psychology, The New School for Social Research Email author 


The QWERTY keyboard mediates communication for millions of language users. Here, we investigated whether differences in the way words are typed correspond to differences in their meanings. Some words are spelled with more letters on the right side of the keyboard and others with more letters on the left. In three experiments, we tested whether asymmetries in the way people interact with keys on the right and left of the keyboard influence their evaluations of the emotional valence of the words. We found the predicted relationship between emotional valence and QWERTY key position across three languages (English, Spanish, and Dutch). Words with more right-side letters were rated as more positive in valence, on average, than words with more left-side letters: the QWERTY effect. This effect was strongest in new words coined after QWERTY was invented and was also found in pseudowords. Although these data are correlational, the discovery of a similar pattern across languages, which was strongest in neologisms, suggests that the QWERTY keyboard is shaping the meanings of words as people filter language through their fingers. Widespread typing introduces a new mechanism by which semantic changes in language can arise.


Motor action Meaning Orthography Typing QWERTY Valence