Mirror Writing

Introduction: Mirror Writing

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This demonstration is an activity in unlearning. In children, mirror writing is easy because of how they currently perceive the world. When first learning to write, humans begin to figure out which is their dominant hand (right or left). A child will naturally start to write from the midline outwards towards the dominant hand. This means if one is left-handed, they are more inclined to start writing on the right (where the midline is located) and outwards to the left (the dominant hand). Children are of course constantly trying to figure out which is their dominant hand and will in turn start to write certain things backwards (as if in a mirror) as they are learning how to write certain figures. When a child learns that a certain figure should face one way, they often over correct and will in turn create a backwards figure.

Once children grow out of this phase, it is difficult to relearn mirror writing as it is now ingrained in the brain as an unconscious procedural memory within the motor cortex. This area of the brain connects with other neurons all the way down the spinal cord to make muscles move. By performing something over and over again, the connections are strengthened and in turn become difficult to alter to their original state after quite some time.

Key Terms:
Unlearning – the process of learning to not perform an action that has been committed to procedural memory

Neuron – an electrically excitable cell that communicates with other cells via specialized connections [synapses].

Procedural Memory – an unconscious memory that relates to skills and movement tasks that can be performed by a person

Motor Cortex – the region of the brain involved in planning, control, and execution of voluntary movements.

Midline – The invisible line that runs down the center of an object; in this case the invisible line that bisects a human into their right and left sides

Supplies

1 Piece of Paper
Writing Utensil
Mirror OR Cell Phone
Scissors* (Optional)

Step 1:

Cut the paper into 4 approximately equal size strips. You do not have to be precise.

Step 2:

Write a word, phrase, or letters the normal way you would with your writing utensil.

Step 3:

Look at your word in the mirror and try to write it, but with everything backwards. You can also take a picture and mirror flip it on a computer or your phone. Only look at the mirror image as your guide.

Step 4:

Compare the original writing to the newly written one to see how similar or not they are.

Step 5:

Using the mirror, try to write your phrase, word, or letters forwards while looking into the mirror.

Further Exploration:

Tech Insider – Why Kids Write Their Letters Backwards - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbiTZg_3rzA

Discovery – Da Vinci: Left-Handed Secrets? - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCdhLjo_ioc

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