Princeton study shows that easy fonts make things harder to remember
January 18, 2011
A Princeton study entitled “Fortune favors the bold (and the Italicized)” (their emphasis) has shown that readers retain information more reliably when they are challenged with so-called “disfluent” fonts.
The research suggests that introducing ‘disfluency’ – by making information superficially harder to understand – deepens the process of learning and encourages better retention.
The psychologists said information which has to be actively generated rather than ‘passively acquired’ from simple text is remembered longer and more accurately.
The study raises questions over how much fonts like Times New Roman and Arial, which are used in the majority of academic books, help readers revise for tests. […]
He said the study showed the whole history of typography was had missed the point when it comes to learning.
Mr Lehrer said: ‘It has been a movement towards easy to read fonts. We assume that anything which makes it easier to see the content is a good thing.
‘This is especially the case in classrooms where teachers assume legibility makes it easier for kids to learn and remember information.
‘That turns out to be exactly backwards.
‘Disfluent fonts, the ones people tend to laugh off, fonts that are comically ugly, they tend to be the best for learning and for memory.’
‘When we see a font that is easy to read we’re able to process that in a mindless way, but when we see an unfamiliar font, one full of weird squiggles, we have to work a little bit harder.
‘That extra effort is a signal to the brain that this might be something worth remembering.’
The article is principally about e-ink readers, like Kindle, but it does rate mention for designers.
[box type=”info”]You can download the report here.[/box]