Why do people miss the Fs in this sentence?


There are six Fs, but most people find only three, omitting the ones in the “ofs”.

What causes that? Why does the brain ‘glance’ over the F in “of”?

*This is a common “mind trick” you find on the Internet.

Because they’re pronounced like a “v.”

That’s what I thought, but it seems too simple. Even when reviewing the sentence, looking specifically for the Fs, people still miss them.

It is truly because you are reading the sentence and not just scanning for F’s. An F subvocalized as a V is ignored.
Try looking at individual letters, starting at the end of the sentence, and you will pick up all F’s.

I thought I was being whooshed for moment. I kept missing the “F” in “SCIENTIFIC”.

I wonder if the mind perceives the “of” as a syntactic unit, and has trouble stopping to break it down into its component letters.

The first time I saw this, it was handed to me on a little card. I turned it upside down so I was less likely to read it and counted the Fs. Got it right the first time.

I think it’s something like this. The little words don’t really register in people’s minds when scanning for a spelling mistake. It is as if they were an atomic glyph in and of themselves.

I’ll bet you this trick wouldn’t work in lowercase, and I think it may even be a trick of upper case. The three that people get are all FI, and the three that they miss are all OF.

Because people don’t tend to notice prepositions, adjunctions and so on.

I agree that it is because “OF” is perceived as an individual entity. The word is so short and common that the brain can’t help but take it in as a whole.

It would be interesting to repeat the experiment with people who had no knowledge of English. I’d wager they would spot all the Fs.

Yeah, me too. F at a beginning or end of a word stood out clearly (the "OF"s were no problem), but in the middle was harder.

The trouble with that experiment is that it wouldn’t distinguish between the F’s pronounced as V theory and the “of” is thought of as a unit itself theory.

I’m thinking it’s because people just skim the sentence. Show this to a small child that is still learning to read or doesn’t have a lot of experience reading and I bet they get them all because they’re concentrating harder on actually reading the sentence.

Same here.