Suck at Memorizing? Change the Font


| 8 Comments
Do you have a hard time memorizing or retaining information? Some are blessed with photographic memories but unfortunately not all of us. Like most, I often have a hard time retaining information when I read things. But scientific research has shown that changing font style can help one learn better. 


funny studying.jpg


We all have a cognitive quality known as fluency. Fluency is a measure of how easy a piece of information is to process. If something is easy to process, the brain automatically assumes that it is easy to recall. This is why we can remember certain things more easily then others. However, when it comes to processing difficult information it becomes a little more complicated.

When we read a piece of information that is difficult to understand, it is often more difficult to understand the second time around. However, according to Nate Kornell, a psychologist at Williams College, "the opposite is true: you learn more, even though it feels harder. Fluency is playing a trick on judgment." From this scientists have concluded that trying to retain a difficult piece of information is like exercise for the brain; it builds "brain muscles". Knowing this, many identical studies have been conducted at institutions like Indiana University, a public school in Chesterland, Ohio, and many more. The study went like this: in a classroom half of the students were given a piece of information with a normal font like Arial/Times New Roman and the other half were given the same information except written with an unusual font like Monotype Corsiva  or  Comic Sans. Sure enough, those who were given the unusual fonts did exceptionally better then those who had the familiar fonts. Those who participated in the Indiana U experiment received an average of 85.5% compared to 72.8%. 

The underlying reason that the change of font can help one retain information is that it makes the individual concentrate harder. It is extremely difficult to skim a paper with an unusual font so reading a hard-to-read font will force you to read more carefully. This may seem like common sense but there is scientific reasoning behind this. Reading an unfamiliar font causes the brain to work harder to grasp onto the information that it is trying to retain. As a result, its ability to recall this information will be stronger then after examining an easy to read font. 

Knowing this, changing font could potentially impact ones ability to retain information in a very positive manner. Maybe next time you try to memorize a difficult and elaborate piece of information, try switching up the font. 


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/health/19mind.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

8 Comments

Very interesting topic! I remember a teacher in high school who told us that switching up fonts on our note sheets would help us learn and retain the information we learned in class. After reading your post, it makes a lot more sense; the brain would have to work harder to understand the material in an aesthetically different way. A Princeton graduate realized this as well and an article about it was published in the Daily Princetonian. Very fascinating; I might start using this technique for my French exams!

Very interesting topic! I remember a teacher in high school who told us that switching up fonts on our note sheets would help us learn and retain the information we learned in class. After reading your post, it makes a lot more sense; the brain would have to work harder to understand the material in an aesthetically different way. A Princeton graduate realized this as well and an article about it was published in the Daily Princetonian. Very fascinating; I might start using this technique for my French exams!

I've read that the brain actually stores absolutely everything you've ever seen, read, heard, but that the issue is remembering it. This talks about that process, as it is known as memory recall. I think it could be the simple fact that a different font is much more unique, and therefore easily for the brain to recall than writing in a similar font to other information a person has read.

This scientific data actually confirms the idea presented in an article in Seventeen magazine that I read a couple years ago! The article suggested that if you switch the color of pen you are using to take notes, it will help you better remember what you are writing. I have since used this technique and if nothing else, it has kept me moderately entertained in class. I will say though, I do find that writing notes (as opposed to typing them) causes me to remember things more efficiently. That being said, I wonder how effective changing the font of typed notes would be in comparison to the amount that I can remember from hand-writing notes. I found a blogger who explains, "the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down" in his entry: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/writing-and-remembering-why-we-remember-what-we-write.html

Kevin, interesting data you discussed, I'm definitely trying it out next big exam. I started looking up visual learning to see if i found anything to add to your discussion- I found that in testing of 13 strains of mice, their ability to perform well on tests of memory and learning (mazes, etc) was dependant on their visual skills. This further strengthens your blog. It wasn't about the mices' brain size, but purely their vision that had to do with their advances in learning or ability to memorize.

http://learnmem.cshlp.org/content/14/3/134.full

Unlike a few of the other comments on this blog, I have never heard of this trick before. I personally like to write my notes in different colors, or have the terms in pen and the definitions in pencil as to distinguish them from each other. I think the font theory makes sense though, not only because our brains have to work hard, but its also just more distinguishable to the eye. While trying to find more information on this topic, I stumbled upon an article about how a certain font developed helps kids with dyslexia read. I think the fact that fonts have not only an impact on memory, but can help with learning disabilities is even more of a reason to further investigate this topic.

This was definitely an interesting post to read. I rarely consider changing the font type to learn better. In the past I’ve used bold, italics, underline, and size changes. I’ve also changed the color of pen or ink when trying to study. I had a teacher many years back that suggested this technique to help learn (or memorize, I don’t remember). Reading this post made me want to look into this more.

I read this brief study to find out if this was really true. In the literature review section of the study, the author cites the Spence (2006) study that demonstrated “color increased the recognition of the natural scenes by approximately 5%.” The student

She then performed a study of her own. The student researcher, Lyannay Huchendorf, admits that there were flaws and limitations to the study. Her results were inconsistent with Spence’s and were not statistically significant.

The verdict is still out as to whether or not color influences memory. However, I never considered the font change until now. I’ll give this a try for an upcoming exam.

This was definitely an interesting post to read. I rarely consider changing the font type to learn better. In the past I’ve used bold, italics, underline, and size changes. I’ve also changed the color of pen or ink when trying to study. I had a teacher many years back that suggested this technique to help learn (or memorize, I don’t remember). Reading this post made me want to look into this more.

I read this brief study to find out if this was really true. In the literature review section of the study, the author cites the Spence (2006) study that demonstrated “color increased the recognition of the natural scenes by approximately 5%.” The student

She then performed a study of her own. The student researcher, Lyannay Huchendorf, admits that there were flaws and limitations to the study. Her results were inconsistent with Spence’s and were not statistically significant.

The verdict is still out as to whether or not color influences memory. However, I never considered the font change until now. I’ll give this a try for an upcoming exam.

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