Mirror-writing in children and the right-writing rule: critically testing the implicit writing rule using novel stimuli.
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Mirror-writing is the phenomenon in which letters, words or digits are written in reverse direction and can be read normally when held to a mirror. Unintentional mirror-writing is frequently observed in young children learning to write but typically disappears by the age of 8. The majority of rightward scripts, such as the English alphabet, contain characters that are predominantly right-facing (e.g. c) or have a vertical line to the left of a distinctive feature (e.g. b). Fischer (2011) proposed an implicit writing rule after observing that left-facing characters (LFCs) are more frequently mirror-written than right-facing characters (RFCs), theorising that children acquire a right-writing rule during literacy development. Moving beyond the results found by Fischer (2011) the present study taught children a set of novel stimuli, rather than using naturally occurring and thus uncontrollable characters, to test whether LFCs really are more frequently mirror-written than RFCs. To explore these results further it was also hypothesised that children with greater language experience, who have therefore acquired an implicit writing rule, will be more likely to mirror-write LFCs. On the other hand, children with less experience with language will not have acquired this implicit writing rule so will not show this pattern of mirror-writing, but in general will mirror-write more frequently. The findings obtained in this study did provide support for Fischer’s (2011) implicit writing rule and children are statistically more likely to mirror-write LFCs than RFCs. There are also significant findings to suggest that children with a greater experience with language mirror-write less overall. However, mixed findings when looking at the patterns of mirror-writing across the experience with language groups has led this study to suggest that there may be factors other than acquiring a right-writing rule during literacy development, for instance motor tendencies, which causes this bias in mirror-writing.
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