Jacob enjoys solving puzzles and playing baseball, the piano, and the trumpet. Scott likes learning Chinese and studying art, the saxophone, and the piano.
Jacob hopes for a career either in mathematics or science, "due to my predilection for deciphering the unknown." Scott, on the other hand, is undecided. "I think that I should just continue pursuing my hobbies and wait to see how things end up playing out," Scott says.
Jacob and Scott were inspired to study people's understanding of word permutations based on a chain e-mail suggesting that readers can easily decipher scrambled text. They decided to examine how demographic factors, such as a subject's education, family history, and school attendance affect the ability to read and comprehend passages of scrambled words.
Jacob and Scott composed six paragraphs and wrote a computer program to scramble the letters in the paragraphs' words. They had students at their school read the permutated paragraphs and answer five comprehension questions. Jacob and Scott found that intensive scrambling slowed the volunteers' reading and lowered their comprehension. However, subjects who attended preschool or whose parents attended college performed best. Subjects with frequent school absences performed worst.