The way you draw a circle depends on where you’re from

This study analysed 100 000 circles to determine what their creators have in common.

Circles are a universal shape. But how you draw them can give some insight into where in the world you grew up. Of particular interest is whether you start your drawing clockwise or counterclockwise. This is according to a study recently conducted by Quartz using public data from Google’s Quick, Draw!.

Released in November 2016, Quick, Draw! is an online game that prompts users to draw random objects like a doughnut or a finger in 20 seconds.

The fun challenge serves a greater purpose. Quick, Draw! is teaching an AI to mimic how humans draw by using the 50 million drawings it collected from users by May this year. It’s also open-sourced this massive dataset, leading to the circle experiment.

From a sample of 116 000 circles drawn by people in 148 countries, Quartz compared the drawing patterns in 66 of the countries that submitted over 100 circles and found that it’s just one of the subtle ways that we carry our culture, history and heritage with us. They did this by identifying the drawing patterns preferred by each nation.

They found that 86 per cent of Americans draw counterclockwise circles while 80 per cent of the people from Japan draw their shapes in the opposite direction. Ultimately, they found that most nations prefer counterclockwise circles apart from two outliers: Taiwan and Japan. 

Google, Quartz analysis

To account for the difference, the research points to differences in language. In Japan, Hiragana, the language closest to English, is made up of curves that go clockwise. The rules of this language are instilled in kids at a young age and curves that bend the wrong way are considered uneducated and clumsy. Taiwan, which has another Chinese-based language structure, has a similar pattern.

At the same time, the majority of counterclockwise countries have the Latin alphabet in common. To see where you land and what the triangle has to do with all of this, check out the full report on Quartz.

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