Research: Using This Font Can Preserve Your Memory

Seeking to enhance your memory recall? Recent research indicates the ideal font for you to use.

Memory retention is a critical aspect of the educational journey, and various tools and techniques have had an impact throughout the years. From handwriting notes to utilizing digital platforms for note-taking, the exploration for effective study aids is ongoing.

Interestingly, recent research has brought attention to a perhaps overlooked factor in this exploration: The fonts we use. This intersection of typography design and memory function provides a new perspective that could enhance learning experiences.

Research insights into fonts and memory

Through lab experiments and classroom evaluations, researchers have begun to understand how the choice of fonts can contribute to memory retention. A 2019 thesis study from a researcher at the University of Nebraska Omaha found that easily readable fonts, such as Times New Roman, supported better reading comprehension.

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Understanding “disfluency”

The concept of “disfluency” was explored in a 2010 study by researchers from Princeton and Indiana University. Disfluency describes the perceived difficulties encountered during cognitive tasks. The study identified a unique relationship between disfluency and memory retention, suggesting that fonts that are somewhat challenging to read, such as Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva or Comic Sans Italicized, might actually enhance retention. This theory was validated not only in laboratory settings but also in real-world classroom scenarios.

The researchers introduced the notion of perceptual disfluency as a form of beneficial difficulty in education. When individuals read a visually challenging font, it prompts more careful information processing, embedding the material more deeply in memory.

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Exploring the “font-size effect”

The “font-size effect” is a concept within memory research that has garnered attention. It’s described as a “metamemory illusion,” where items displayed in larger font size are believed to foster higher judgments of learning, even though they don’t necessarily enhance memory compared to items in smaller fonts. A study in 2022 indicated a slight improvement in judgments of learning and memory accuracy with larger-font items, but this was always in relation to smaller-font items. Simply enlarging the font size across an entire document doesn’t notably enhance memory retention since the effect is relative.

A 2016 study provides further insights into this phenomenon. In this study, researchers observed that participants universally predicted better recall for items presented in larger fonts than smaller ones, independent of the font style used. Furthermore, items shown in bold were recalled more effectively than those in regular or italic styles.

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Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO
Tricia is a doctor of osteopathy with experience in primary healthcare. She received her medical degree from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and conducts clinical research in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, as she is motivated by the desire to contribute to the development of innovative treatments and therapies. She is also a certified lifestyle coach for the CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program, empowering individuals to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes. Dr. Varacallo loves to write— especially about health, wellness, and grief. Drawing from her own experiences of loss and caregiving, she loves to offer support and encouragement to those navigating their own grief journeys. Outside of her professional life, she enjoys traveling and exploring the sunny beaches of Florida with her significant other, always ready for their next adventure.