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New font that helps you remember

October 5, 2018

Students studying for exams have a new tool at their disposal — typography. A font developed by designers and researchers helps you remember what you just read.

Sans Forgetic
Image: RMIT University / sansforgetica.rmit

Australian researchers have created a font that aids memory recall, a Melbourne university announced this week.

The font Sans Forgetica was developed by a trio of designers and researchers specializing in typography and behavioral science at RMIT University in Melbourne.

The design is based on a font called Albion, but with heavy modifications to reduce familiarity. The font is back-slanted and includes distinctive gaps that engage the brain, improving recall.

RMIT Behavioral Business Lab's Janneke Blijlevens said normal fonts were very familiar.

"Readers often glance over them and no memory trace is created," said Blijlevens. But she warned that if a font is too outlandish the brain struggles to process the text and the information is not retained.

"Sans Forgetica lies at a sweet spot where just enough obstruction has been added to create that memory retention."

The modifications force readers to spend longer on each word, allowing the brain to engage in deeper cognitive processing.

Behavioral economist Jo Peryman said the new font would benefit students revising for exams. "We believe this is the first time that specific principles of design theory have been combined with specific principles of psychology theory in order to create a font," she said.

Experiments involving about 400 students found the font boosted recall, albeit not substantially. In one experiment, 96 participants were asked to recall word pairs presented in three different fonts. Participants recalled 69 percent of the word pairs presented in Sans Forgetica compared to 61 percent for the other fonts.

In an online experiment, 303 students took a mock multiple-choice exam. When the text was presented in Sans Forgetica, participants remembered 57 percent of the text, compared to 50 percent of the surrounding text that was written in a plain Arial font.

The World of Letters