Super Mario runs from left to right by popular demand: study

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 17 Mar 2015

DID YOU KNOW: There's a reason for everything, even as to why Super Mario runs from left to right.

We could have a fundamental bias for visual motion from left to right, according to researchers in the UK whose new study could explain why the stars of popular side-scrolling videogames such as the Super Mario series move that way. 

The research involved inspecting thousands of items in Google images says lead author and psychologist Dr Peter Walker of Lancaster University. 

Dr Walker says there are two main artistic conventions that convey motion and they are even carried over to photography. 

In one of them, moving objects are depicted leaning forward into their movement and in the other, they are portrayed moving from left to right. 

Yet objects or characters that are represented as being stationary don't exhibit this bias, he says. 

"Whereas a rightward bias is found for photographs of animate and inanimate items in motion [more so the faster is the motion being conveyed]," says Dr Walker. "Either no bias or a leftward bias is found for the same items in static pose." 

Italicised text is frequently used to convey notions of movement, speed and release, he says, and it nearly always exhibits the left-to-right bias. 

This would seem to come from our language, which reads from left to right, however, even in Hebrew, which reads from right to left, text is italicised to convey speed from left to right. 

"It was the inspection of the availability of italic fonts in Hebrew that suggested an additional artistic convention for conveying motion, based on a fundamental bias, confirmed in the present study, for people to expect to see, or prefer to see, lateral movement, real or implied, in a left to right direction, rather than a right to left direction," says Dr Walker. 

The study was published in the journal Perception

An earlier study concluded that right-handed individuals exhibit bias towards their dominant hand, selecting it in nearly all circumstances where the left would suffice. 

Yet the lefties among us are not biased that way and use their right hand more often than right-handed individuals use their left. 

This study, also conducted in the UK, was published in the journal Cortex. – AFP/Relaxnews 

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