# How many F's can you count?

Off topic: How many F's can you count?

Nesrin
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:08
English to Arabic
+ ...
 Oct 31, 2006

This is a seemingly very simple test which was sent to me - I find it so inexplicable!

Read the following statement quickly, counting all the letters F in the statement:

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF MANY YEARS.

How many did you find?

Actually, there are 6 Fs. Apparently, most people find 3 or 4. I found 4. The thing is that the brain usually overlooks the "OF"s because they aren't nouns and because the letter isn't pronounced f but v.
The strange thing is that I did the test again today, KNOWING where the trick is, and I STILL only got 4!
The test was sent out to a number of friends, and interestingly, those who are not very proficient in English all found 6 Fs (that is not to say that if you find 6 you're not proficient in English - you may just be a genius!)

[Edited at 2006-10-31 14:50]

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Ivana de Sousa Santos
Portugal
Local time: 11:08
French to Portuguese
+ ...
 I counted 6 Oct 31, 2006

Actually I already knew this and I knew there was the trick of the "of", but when I did it the first time I also counted 6.

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Erik Freitag
Germany
Local time: 12:08
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
 6 Oct 31, 2006

I counted 6, but English is not my native language. So it does seem to make a difference...

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Nesrin
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:08
English to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
 Ok then, maybe language professionals are an exception! Oct 31, 2006

But what does that say about me?

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texjax DDS PhD
Local time: 06:08
Member (2006)
English to Italian
+ ...
 amazing! Oct 31, 2006

Nesrin!
I obtained the same results as you. Amazing!
Should we be worried?

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Roberta Anderson
Italy
Local time: 12:08
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
 I saw only 2! Oct 31, 2006

At first glance I only spotted 2 F's!!!

and I pride myself on my eye for details...

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Heike Behl, Ph.D.
United States
Local time: 03:08
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...

texjax DDS PhD wrote:

Nesrin!
I obtained the same results as you. Amazing!
Should we be worried?

For proofreading your own texts - yes! The brain just sees what it wants (or rather: expects) to see. I.e. the more familiar you are with the content of a text, the less likely you are to spot typos.

Once I had to work on a computer without a spellchecker installed. The translation was a short press release around 4-500 words. I read through the text carefully and slowly five times to make sure there were no typos, just to find one - in the company's name of all places - plastered all over the Internet later. Totally embarrassing!

The brain is even more unpredictable than that. Once I was studying a restaurant menu for a particular dish I knew was a specialty of that restaurant. My brain therefore expected to find the specific word (boxty); however, I simply couldn't find this item. I repeatedly read the word as "broth" (ie. chicken broth instead of chicken boxty) for some unexplicable reasons (maybe chicken broth as the more common collocation got preference?), and I had the visual graphic image of the words printed in green on the light yellow background spelling out "broth" clearly in front of my eyes. I would have sworn under oath that the first item on the list was chicken broth. Scanning the menu for the third or fourth time finaly showed me "boxty". Absolutely weird! There's just no relying on what your brain tells you.

There was an interesting article a few days ago in the German Spiegel on the unreliability of memories and how easily they can be manipulated. I also remember from the past an experiment on the (un)reliability of eyewitnesses. The image of a yellow car combined with the image of a blue car perceived in a clip with a number of events in quick sequence resulted in a remembered green car!

For anyone producing text that means that the safest way is to have somebody else proofread your texts. I've also heard that reading your text backwards helps, since the words then follow in an unfamiliar and non-semantic order and the brain can focus more on the actual letters. For this reason, it's also good to let your text rest for as long as possible before the final proofreading session.

[Edited at 2006-10-31 16:38]

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Monica Tuduce
Luxembourg
Local time: 12:08
Member
Italian to Romanian
+ ...
 I saw 6 Oct 31, 2006

but I am non-english and in my language "f" is pronounced as an "f".

Heike said:
"I also remember from the past an experiment on the (un)reliability of eyewitnesses. The image of a yellow car combined with the image of a blue car perceived in a clip with a number of events in quick sequence resulted in a remembered green car!"

which reminded me the movie "Memento", one of my favourites, which is about memory/lost of memory..

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Özden Arıkan
Germany
Local time: 12:08
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
 I counted 6 Oct 31, 2006

Because... since this is presented as a sort of trick, I guess I knew that I had to pay particular attention to... what? The of's of course

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Liliana Roman-Hamilton
Local time: 03:08
English to Italian
 only 3... Oct 31, 2006

...I'm not mother tongue but I have a fast way of reading (grasping groups of words in one glance, considering the longer ones and disregarding the "and"/"of"/"is" etc...), so I only found 3....

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Anne Patteet
Local time: 05:08
English to French
+ ...
 me too... Oct 31, 2006

Özden Arıkan wrote:

Because... since this is presented as a sort of trick, I guess I knew that I had to pay particular attention to... what? The of's of course

I found 6 for the same reason. If I had not been aware it was a trick, I might not have found them all.

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Ivana UK
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:08
Member (2005)
Italian to English
 It's been a while since I've seen this test! Nov 1, 2006

Although somewhere at the back of my mind I knew the answer was 6, I counted the F's and got only 3.

I tried again and got 3 again - but I tend to "scan" rather than read and EN is my mothertongue, so that comes as no surprise!

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Heinrich Pesch
Finland
Local time: 13:08
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
 I got 7 Nov 1, 2006

but then I used the fingers of my left hand.
Cheers
Heinrich

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