Science Project:

Decoding Scrambled Messages

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Problem:

Can people decode scrambled messages?

Materials:

  • 20 or more subjects that know how to read well.
  • Scrambled messages
  • A timer

Procedure

  1. Find a number of people willing to participate in your study. You will get more accurate results if you chose people who are strong readers.
  2. Have your subjects participate separately from one another. Your study will not work if your subjects hear each other’s answers. Work with one subject at a time in a closed room.
  3. Tell your subject that they must attempt the puzzle for at least two minutes after which time they can choose to give up.
  4. Start the timer.
  5. Have your participant read aloud a sample with the middle letters scrambled, such as the one below.
  6. Stop the timer after the subject successfully reads the message.
  7. Record the total time it took for them to decode the message.
  8. Start the timer.
  9. Have your participant read aloud a sample with the middle and last letters scrambled, such as the one below. It is important that this message be different from the first one but of comparable length.
  10. Stop the timer after the subject successfully reads the message.
  11. Record the total time it took for them to decode the message.
  12. Start the timer.
  13. Have your participant read aloud a sample with all the letters scrambled, such as the one below.
  14. Stop the timer after the subject successfully reads the message.
  15. Record the total time it took for them to decode the message.
  16. Repeat steps 3-14 with each of your subjects.
  17. Compare the results.

NOTE: Stop the timer if your subject gives up and mark the time as incomplete and greater than the time you stopped at. Have your subject work on the puzzle for at least twice as long as it took them to decode the previous message.

Sample A: Middle Letters Scrambled

Tihis is a spilme tset to dteenmire wethehr you can sltil raed tihs stencene eevn tghuoh the ltreels are in the ireorcnct oderr.

Answer: This is a simple test to determine whether you can still read this sentence even though the letters are in the incorrect order.

Sample B: Middle and Last Letters Scrambled

Teh qciku bnrow fxo jpduem oerv teh lzay dgo woh coedtinun to sepel all tohrhug teh dtbceniusra bcsueea he wsa vyre tredi.

Answer: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog who continued to sleep all through the disturbance because he was very tired.

Sample C: All Letters Scrambled

Ti saw a kdra nad tosrym hting enhw eth amn rrdavie ni eth ookysp acslet heewr a blto fo ntggliinh nanondeuc sih rivalra.

Answer: It as a dark and stormy night when the man arrived in the spooky castle where a bolt of lightning announced his arrival.

Author: Crystal Beran
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