↑ comment by bigjeff5 ·
2011-01-26T21:33:01.905Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
As soon as you questioned your motives you were 9/10ths the way to finding the true reasons you use the QWERTY keyboard and on the path to avoiding self-delusion. For each answer you come up with for or against using a QWERTY keyboard you simply need to question your motives for that answer.
If at that point you were still somehow deluding yourself, there is absolutely no way you could possibly tell, and the question is entirely moot.
(A note in advance, my result from the example below really, really surprised me!)
For example, my own reasons for using a QWERTY keyboard are simple: I learned to touch-type QWERTY, and I type reasonably fast with a QWERTY keyboard. Also, all keyboards I have ever used or come across have been QWERTY.
My reasons for not using a DVORAK keyboard are equally simple, though I've never considered them before now. They are true of any alternative to QWERTY, so it doesn't really matter. The following are purely assumptions.
-First, I don't know DVORAK, so I would have to learn a new style of touch-typing all over again. I am reasonably certain that this will take a significant amount of effort, because it took years of practice to become proficient with QWERTY in the first place, and I know from other personal experience how difficult it is for me to re-train the level of muscle memory I have with QWERTY touch-typing.
-Second, as far as I know DVORAK is not superior to QWERTY in any significant way
-Third, I have never seen a DVORAK keyboard, so they are likely to be difficult to find or uncommon.
These are all lines of inquiry I can verify. Some with hard data right off the bat, some will require further research, and based on my initial findings I can determine if such research is warranted.
The second assumption seems the easiest to falsify, and a quick Google search gives some interesting results which certainly warrant further research:
-The first result for the fastest verified typist in the world is Barbara Blackbum, and she types an incredible four times faster than I do. She uses the DVORAK keyboard, apparently at first because QWERTY was too difficult to learn. This certainly raises the question that DVORAK may be superior to QWERTY, but Blackbum may be unique, and if she had stuck with QWERTY she may have ultimately been just as fast. Are there QWERTY typists who type at similar speeds? Unfortunately, a quick Google search gives little information on the layout used by most typist record holders. However, further searching has revealed that her record was broken earlier this year by Michael Shestov, and he certainly appears to be "special" in that it doesn't matter the keyboard layout, he types about as fast with all of them. Barbara Blackbum is also very fast with QWERTY, but she is significantly faster with Dvorak, lending credibility to the idea that I, too, may be significantly faster with Dvorak than QWERTY. There are studies that suggest Dvorak is faster for average typists as well, but at this point the only way to definitively know which is superior for me would be to try Dvorak and see what happens. This also happens to be very practical, which is a bonus.
During in the process above (which shows my second assumption is clearly not based in reality) I also came across information that calls into question my first assumption, which was that it would require years to become as proficient with Dvorak (or any typing method) as I am with QWERTY. The basis for this assumption was the difficulty of learning QWERTY, however it seems Dvorak was designed from the beginning to be a more natural and easier to learn than QWERTY, and there have been a small handful of studies which seem to bear this out. Anecdotal evidence from Dvorak users also seems to bear this out, though obviously none of this can actually determine that I will find Dvorak easier. However, it does show that my assumption was based on a false premise, and gives me avenues for actually determining if Dvorak is better than QWERTY for myself (namely, try it for a month, and if I can actually type with Dvorak after this short time, try it for a few more months to see how fast I progress and determine if it is worth maintaining).
For the last assumption, just a little thinking on the problem shows that I was looking at the problem incorrectly: It does not matter how popular Dvorak keyboards are or aren't, a simple setting change in my OS can turn any QWERTY keyboard into a Dvorak keyboard. I can also switch keys around or make little labels for them, but this isn't really necessary to have a functioning Dvorak keyboard.
The nail in the coffin for your argument actually has nothing to do specifically with what I stated above about the arguments for or against the QWERTY keyboard and the Dvorak keyboard. The nail in the coffin is the huge difference between what I expected to demonstrate and the conclusion I actually came to.
The original purpose of the exercise was to show that there was no point in switching away from the QWERTY keyboard, but this was OK because I wasn't fooling myself about anything, it was just the most reasonable position for someone who was used to a QWERTY keyboard to take.
My actual conclusion was that it was definitely worth my time to try the Dvorak style, and in fact I will be switching my settings over as soon as I post this (I would have switched already, just out of curiosity, but I have spent about an hour on this post already, and I don't want to spend any longer than I need to on it).
While I did not find any evidence that definitively said "Yes, Dvorak is clearly superior to QWERTY, stop looking and just use it" to my satisfaction (I doubt I ever would have), I did find that my reasons for not using Dvorak had no substance at all, and since I have a very easy way to falsify the idea that Dvorak is better for me to use than QWERTY (it's just a simple OS setting after all) that I must go ahead and try. Since I kept finding my self say "Huh. That's not what I expected" quite often in the half hour or so I was researching the problem, it became very clear that my expectations need to be adjusted. In order to bring my expectations in line with reality, I need to try this for myself and either have concrete reasons for using the QWERTY keyboard, or to switch to Dvorak. I have a feeling I might be switching to Dvorak permanently, given the research that has been done on the subject, but there is no way to know for sure until I try.
As you said, I should have had all kinds of subconscious barriers to changing my assumptions, and in fact I did - I was pretty sure my reasoning against switching was sound before I wrote it down, but writing it forced me to focus on it consciously, and they seemed rather weak, so I set out to disprove them.
Subconscious barriers cannot stand up to my conscious mind once it is (correctly) trained on them. Unfounded assumptions cannot be maintained once the truth is known. Period. There is nothing your subconscious can do to stop that, so as long as you always question your assumptions, no matter where they came from, and always verify your assumptions by seeking to prove them wrong. If you seek to prove them correct you will never look in the right place, and you can easily fall into the trap you describe. Do this an you can pretty much always overcome your subconscious barriers to knowing the difference between the truth and a rationalization.
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