Cognitive Illusions of Authorship Reveal Hierarchical Error Detection in Skilled Typists

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Science  29 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6004, pp. 683-686
DOI: 10.1126/science.1190483

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Touchy Typing

Even the most able typist makes errors, and Logan and Crump (p. 683) have used this real-world task to probe for the existence of two error-detection mechanisms. They inserted errors into words that had been typed correctly by the subjects, and they corrected errors that had been made. By measuring implicit error detection as the slowing of movement just after an error had been committed and by eliciting explicit monitoring of errors by the output shown on the screen, they uncovered a double dissociation. Inserted errors did not lengthen the interval until the next letter was typed, but they were reported by the typist as errors; on the other hand, corrected errors did increase the interval, but were nevertheless claimed by the subjects as having been typed correctly.


The ability to detect errors is an essential component of cognitive control. Studies of error detection in humans typically use simple tasks and propose single-process theories of detection. We examined error detection by skilled typists and found illusions of authorship that provide evidence for two error-detection processes. We corrected errors that typists made and inserted errors in correct responses. When asked to report errors, typists took credit for corrected errors and accepted blame for inserted errors, claiming authorship for the appearance of the screen. However, their typing rate showed no evidence of these illusions, slowing down after corrected errors but not after inserted errors. This dissociation suggests two error-detection processes: one sensitive to the appearance of the screen and the other sensitive to keystrokes.

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