Mark A. Changizi and coauthors, Qiang Zhang, Hao Ye, and Shinsuke Shimojo, from the California Institute of Technology have hypothesized that human visual signs are "cross-culturally selected to reflect common contours in natural scenes" that the eye has already mapped.
"[We] analyzed one hundred writing systems, Chinese characters, and non-linguistic visual signs, and found that these very different types of human visual signs possess a similar shape structure," the authors say in a study to be published in the May 2006 issue of The American Naturalist. The researchers say that they compared human visual signs to natural scenes and found a significant correlation between the contours combinations in nature and the contour combinations in letters. They cite the example of contours "L" or "X" as being common in human visual signs and natural scenes. They also analyzed the motor and visual skills that related to the shapes and forms that are easier to see and conclude that shape signature for human visual signs is attuned to reading at "the expense of writing."
Mark A. Changizi, Qiong Zhang, Hao Ye, and Shinsuke Shimojo "The structures of letters and symbols throughout human history are selected to match those found in objects in natural scenes," The American Naturalist 167:5.
Contact: Suzanne Wu
University of Chicago Press Journals