Based on new research by Daniel Oppenheimer and his colleagues at Princeton University, students recall what they’ve read better when it’s printed in smaller, less legible type. When Oppenheimer and his team asked college students to memorize the biological profiles of two fictional species printed respectively in a gray 12-point Comic Sans and an easier-to-read, 16-point Arial pure-black font, students recalled the information printed using the less legible typeface more accurately.
Apparently, the disfluency caused by the harder to read fonts makes the students slow down and concentrate harder and therefore process the material more deeply.
For more effective textbooks and lessons, Oppenheimer recommends creating disfluency by:
- Using less familiar fonts
- Using a different font in every chapter
- manipulating contrast (e.g. grey font on a white background for weaker contrast, hence more difficulty)
- using smaller font sizes
Do you agree or disagree with these findings? Would awkward fonts work in the context of ESL classes?
Read the full report in the March 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review.