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Special skill is now a touchy subject

ONCE upon a time, journalists were not as other men.

We were typists. Now, everybody's at it.

And they're getting right good at it. According to new research, increasing numbers of ordinary, non-journalist citizens can touch-type. And the reason scientists are interested in this is that it casts an interesting light on the ability to perform actions without conscious thought or intention.

Indeed, I just touch-typed that last sentence. I am typing this column without conscious thought. As you can tell.

I remember taking typing classes and how proud I felt about it. Here was a bona-fide skill.

At the time, I didn't have any of these. And, unless you count ear-waggling, I still don't. Apart from the typing.

But technology has done for any feeling of being part of a male elite. It's quite peculiar to watch citizens in the street tapping away at their little gadgets. They must just have picked it up as they went along, rather than attending proper classes.

How galling is that? It's as if I were to stick my finger too far into my ear and suddenly acquire the skills of a neurosurgeon. Not that I'm comparing journalists to neurosurgeons. We eschew gowns for a start.

But, yes, practise has made perfect and now qwerty (oddly enough, I had to look at the keyboard to type that) is as familiar as abc.

Cognitive psychologists — good job to declare at a party — at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, and Kobe University, Japan, found that the average ratepayer can type as many as 72 words a minute. That's pretty brisk.

The accuracy rate was 94%, which is better than mine. Although I can touch-type, I do have to go over all the words again.

Also, just for the record, I lied about the ear-waggling.

The odd thing about the findings was that, according to the boffins, folk didn't actually memorise the key positions. Their brains just kind of absorbed them by osmosis.

Related findings, published in the popular journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, found that typists were flummoxed when presented with a different keyboard layout. There's a surprise.

It's no surprise that the world changes. But it remains great a disappointment to me that other men can type now.

I wonder what else I could do to distinguish me from my fellows. Must say I like the sound of psychophysics.

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