New research appears to show that difficult-to-read fonts make for better learning.

The study at Princeton University employed volunteers to learn made-up information and then try to recall it. The results showed that the volunteers whose information was in harder-to-read fonts were more likely to recall the information when tested 15 minutes later. From BBC News:

Researchers found that, on average, those given the harder-to-read fonts actually recalled 14% more.

They believe that presenting information in a way that is hard to digest means a person has to concentrate more, and this leads to “deeper processing” and then “better retrieval” afterwards.

It is an example of the positive effects of what scientists call “disfluency”.

“Disfluency is just a subjective feeling of difficulty associated with any mental task,” explained psychology Prof Daniel Oppenheimer, one of the co-authors of the study.

“So if something is hard to see or hear, it feels disfluent… We’d found that disfluency led people to think harder about things.

“When we found that in the lab, we were very excited, because it has obvious implications for the classroom.”

The study was repeated on high school students, and the results showed they scored higher in classroom assessments when given learning materials in harder-to-read fonts.

If you find it difficult to concentrate on written language learning materials, perhaps changing the font could help. Has anyone tried this? It sounds quite distracting to me.