It takes more brainpower to read "text-speak" than fully written words, research has found.

The study, by the University of Canterbury, also concludes that the mental resources required to read abbreviated writing are more likely to mean mistakes in other tasks carried out at the same time.

Forty right-handed students wearing vibrating belts read two messages from a monitor - one in text-speak and the other correctly spelled.

The researchers defined text-speak as techniques used to present meaningful content with less information - such as subsets (txt instead of text), shortcuts (gr8 instead of great), phonetic respellings (cya for see you) and acronyms (ttyl for talk to you later).


When the students felt a vibration on their left side, they were to hit the left side of a mouse, and if they sensed a vibration on their right, to tap the right side. The study assessed how quickly and accurately they recorded the vibrations and asked how well they understood the messages. It found there were more mixed signals and delayed reaction times while the participants were reading text-speak, but no difference in understanding.

Lead researcher PhD student James Head said that could have been because participants were using the context of the message to fill in the gaps. Mr Head was interested in how reading text-speak affected drivers after a friend was nearly killed in a crash because of texting.

"Previous researchers [have] shown people drive poorly because they take their eyes off the road ... but no one has ever looked at just processing texts and how it impacts your performance on a task."