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Mirror Writing: A Striking and Mysterious Process

“Picture yourself in a taxi on a cold, rainy day, condensation on the windows.

You want to write ‘Bye-Bye’ on the glass to someone waving at you from the house.

In order to be read by them, you need to write in reverse on the inside of the window, from right to left. This ‘mirror-writing’ is a striking and mysterious process…”

So begins an excellent recent review of the literature on mirror writing – complex cousin to mirror reading – by Robert McIntosh and Sergio Della Sala in the October 2012 issue of The Psychologist.

Mirror-writing is the production of letters, words or sentences in reverse direction, so that they look normal when viewed in a mirror. Or read from the opposite side of a steamy window.

McIntosh and Della Sala explore the history and research of different forms of mirror writing – deliberate, spontaneous and involuntary – and throw in a bit of mystery. It’s a complicated and fascinating centuries-old tale that is today being told through innovative research on memory and motor skills with children, adults, and elders.

They delve, “Mirror-writing has long fascinated observers in art and science. Beyond its obvious curiosity value, it provides compelling insights into how we learn about, and represent the world…”

In their succinct account, the authors dispel several myths surrounding mirror-writing in children including, notably, that mirror writing is associated with slow intellectual development. In fact, mirror-writing is common amongst children learning to write.

The authors cite the famous genius of Leonardo da Vinci’s text reversals and Lewis Carroll’s strange Looking-Glass Letters. They observe, “mirror writing is cultivated by some healthy, albeit unusual, people, often to a high level of skill.”Interestingly, being an expert mirror writer does not guarantee you will be a great mirror reader.

Many people are unaware of their latent mirror writing or reading abilities. To know, you have to try. Then they pull out a bit of Modern Mirror Trivia: The answers are below.

1. In what movie were the ‘facts’ tattooed on the amnesic main character’s chest in reverse so that he could read their reflection?

2. What Simpson’s character wrote backwards with her blocks?

3. What dog detective show used mirror writing in the episode ‘Mystery mask mix-up’?

The article features a modern mirror writing genius: KB, a German artist who discovered mirror writing at the age of nine when he realized he could write more, and faster, if he simultaneously wrote forward with his right hand and backward with his left. Extending his talents with practice, he can now write in either direction with either hand, including making vertical and horizontal flips. He incorporates these unique perspectives in his distinctive ‘mirror-art’ – one of KB’s works accompanies the article.

McIntosh and Della Sala conclude, “The story is intriguing, yet incomplete – there will be more to learn about ourselves in this particular looking-glass.”

Read the full story here. Maybe a bit of practice writing backwards on windows is in order.

Picture yourself writing backwards on a window now. Capital letters may be easier.

If you have any questions, or personal stories of your own mirror writing or reading talents, please share them with us.

It’s great to hear from you:


1. Memento

2. Maggie

3. Scooby Doo

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