NYT: Font Size May Not Aid Learning, but Its Style Can, Researchers Find

19mind

In a fascinating article by Benedict Carey for the New York Times Health Section, university studies around memory, cognition, and fonts have uncovered some surprising results.   

Various psychological research projects at Duke, Harvard, UCLA, Williams, and psychology pubications have uncovered the effects that familiar references have on learning and recollection. Research shows that glancing at references such at answer sheets, cheat notes, and certain styles of memorization give readers and test-takers a higher sense of confidence, but do not aid in test performance or in the ability to remember the material. Building on this, research at Indiana University and Princeton reveals that larger font size does not help people remember what they read, but rather, has the opposite effect, due to the fact that the brain is “tricked” into overconfidence. The same effect of “tricked overconfidence” results from reading information in a familiar font, as opposed to reading information in a more difficult-to-read, unfamiliar font—the latter appears to encourage better recollection of what was read.

This article has interesting implications for designers, since designers’ work must typically consider the legibility of type. While legibility is a necessity in most design projects, this research suggests that, at least in some situations, font choice does not need to be as “obvious” or “safe” as many design clients may fear. The research appears to suggest that a little bit more font “risk” may in fact make a message more memorable. 

 

Full article on NYT

 

 

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