Comic Sans Can Make You Smarter
And not merely Comic Sans, but even worse still, Comic Sans Italicised.
A recent paper by Daniel M. Oppenheimer entitled, pleasingly, “Fortune favours the Bold (and the italicised)” delivered a blow to lovely fonts everywhere by demonstrating that we absorb information better when it is a little hard to read. It seems our eyes just skim over Times New Roman and Helvetica, but stick when we reach a smudged, cramped line of type, finally ready to engage.
The researchers took classroom material and altered the fonts, switching from Helvetica and Arial to Monotype Corsiva, Comic Sans Italicised and Haettenschweiler. The teachers already taught each class in two sections. One section was taught using the “fluent” texts, the other, the “disfluent”. After several weeks, the researchers put the students through some tests. They found that those taught using dirtier fonts retained information significantly better.
To the experimenters this was a challenge to one of teaching’s basic assumptions — that when learning is easier, it’s better. Rather, adding a few superficial difficulties to the reading experience is more likely to make pupils engage with the text. This ties in with other studies in “disfluency” — which show that a slightly challenging delivery can make people process information more carefully.
Jake Meador has more (on challenging learning experiences, that is, not this upsetting typographic revelation).