Australian researchers have developed a new tool that could help readers with their memory retention.
Melbourne-based RMIT University’s behavioural business lab and design school teamed up to create “Sans Forgetica”, which they say uses psychological and design theories to aid memory retention.
About 400 university students have been involved in a study that found a small increase in the amount participants remembered – 57% of text written in Sans Forgetica compared with 50% in a plain Arial.
Unlike traditional fonts, which can be scanned over without creating a memory trace, Sans Forgetica requires a bit of extra work. Readers have to put in a bit of mental effort to close the gaps in letters, making them dwell on each word for a little longer.
The font also has an unconventional slant to the left, instead of the slant to the right used for italicised text. This also boosts people’s engagement with the words and leads to deeper cognitive processing.
“It should be difficult enough, but not too difficult or too easy,” explained senior lecturer Dr Janneke Blijlevens, who also worked on the project.
Chair of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab and behavioural economist, Dr Jo Peryman, said it was a terrific tool for students studying 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.”
The font was developed using a learning principle called ‘desirable difficulty’, where an obstruction is added to the learning process that requires us to put in just enough effort, leading to better memory retention to promote deeper cognitive processing.
Senior Marketing Lecturer (Experimental Methods and Design Thinking) and founding member of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab Dr Janneke Blijlevens said typical fonts were very familiar.
“Readers often glance over them and no memory trace is created,” Blijlevens said. However, if a font is too different, the brain can’t process it 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.”
Sans Forgetica is available free to download as a font and Chrome browser extension, here.