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Education Science

Hard-to-Read Fonts Improve Learning 175

arkenian writes "Difficult-to-read fonts make for better learning, according to scientists. The finding is about to be published in the international journal Cognition. Researchers at Princeton University employed volunteers to learn made-up information about different types of aliens — and found that those reading harder fonts recalled more when tested 15 minutes later. The article goes on to note a second test in a real school environment: 'Keen to see if their findings actually worked in practice, the Princeton University team then tested their results on 222 students aged between 15 and 18 at a secondary school in Chesterfield, Ohio.'... 'Students given the harder-to-read materials scored higher in their classroom assessments than those in the control group. This was the case across a range of subjects — from English, to Physics to History.'"
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Hard-to-Read Fonts Improve Learning

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  • Long term effect? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2010 @04:27AM (#33994862)

    I'd like to know the long term effect of this. What if the brain develops a better comprehension of the hard-to-read fonts, rendering all the re-printing meaningless?

  • by stalkedlongtime ( 1630997 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @04:30AM (#33994882) Journal
    If you're asking someone to absorb fluff (like nonsense about aliens) then perhaps it's a good idea to manufacture 'disfluency' with odd fonts and the like.

    If you're asking someone to absorb difficult material (like Knuth or advanced physics) then you want to minimize other sources of 'disfluency'.
  • by srussia ( 884021 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @04:41AM (#33994912)
    The comparative readability of Arial is not the same on-screen and on paper. Here's the account in the Economist: Learning difficulties []. It mentions "tests" that had determined readability, but alas no reference to the specific study.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 23, 2010 @05:00AM (#33994972)

    In this case, the readers had to read the darn thing. In normal cases I figure a reader would stop reading if it was difficult or not enjoyable.

  • by ekrock ( 736908 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @05:01AM (#33994974) Homepage

    There are a few more questions to answer. (1) How long did subjects spend reading the Comic Sans documents vs. the Arial documents? If they spent more time reading the Comic Sans documents, that could explain the difference. (2) If they spent longer reading the Comic Sans versions, what was their net learning productivity after factoring the additional time in? (3) Could novelty explain the effect by obtaining greater attention? If we reprinted all textbooks in Comic Sans and similar fonts from hell, would the effect go away? (4) What would be the effect on children of a childhood spent reading books in Comic Sans? Would they be willing to put up with reading if all their books were printed in fonts designed to slow and torment the reader?

    The only way you'll get my Arial is by prying it out of my cold, dead hands!!!

    The invention and proliferation of Comic Sans was essentially an accident. This study takes "unintended consequences" to a whole new level!

  • Re:Not a surprise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by obarel ( 670863 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @05:16AM (#33995022)

    Yes, I had history textbooks with unreadable tiny font. No, it didn't make me a master of history, it just made me sleepy as I struggled to stay focussed AND fight the tiny font. Not much of it made its way into my brain, as I soon fell asleep.

    No idea how I passed the exam, I wouldn't be able to tell you what was in those books.

  • Re:Think bigger! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sqldr ( 838964 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @05:25AM (#33995050)
    I'm sorry, but typing one word in to get at pr0n is hard enough work. If you want me to type in the entirety of "death of a salesman" or "the Da Vinci code" then I'm leaving the internet.
  • by arikol ( 728226 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @05:28AM (#33995058) Journal

    Ok, what about having to read all courses in illegible fonts. will the time allotted suffice?

    It's rather obvious that slowing down the reading gives better retention, this fact is well known within psychology and cognitive science. But using this method of slowing students down may impact their overall score, as they don't have time to read everything they are supposed to.

    110 out of 100 in history, 5 out of 100 in psychology because you only managed to read the first chapter..

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @06:02AM (#33995158) Homepage
    Arial? Verdana, my friend. Arial is a cheap whore compared to the lady Verdana. Guess why Arial was created by Microsoft originally?
  • Re:Think bigger! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @07:27AM (#33995430)
    You obviously haven't been in a public school English class recently. The good teachers are still good, but then you've got the "fresh from school and wanting to seem hip" teachers that will have you read something that's popular but substance-less to try to connect with you on your level, and you've also got the absolute idiot teachers who will have you read it and then write an essay on it so that they can finally understand the plots themselves. In case you think this is a total joke, the teacher who taught honors English in my high school had the class read "A Walk To Remember" and then watch the movie. She was a complete and total joke, and she was better than most of the English teachers at the school.
  • Re:Think bigger! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @09:58AM (#33996052)

    Sounds like an improvement to me. Better than "The Grapes of Wrath" for sure. At least your average high school student might actually READ "The da Vinci Code".

    But your average high school student might actually BELIEVE "The da Vinci Code". I'd rather have them believe "The Grapes of Wrath".

  • Re:Think bigger! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday October 23, 2010 @11:05AM (#33996506) Journal

    Can you honestly say it's any worse than the shit they actually try to pass off as worthwhile in English class? Moby Dick? The Scarlet Letter?

I go on working for the same reason a hen goes on laying eggs. -- H.L. Mencken