Sans Forgetica font doesn’t actually boost memory

Sans Forgetica. (Credit: U. Warwick)

The Sans Forgetica font does not enhance memory, researchers report.

Sans Forgetica received a lot of press coverage after researchers in Australia claimed they had designed a new font that would boost memory by making information that appeared in the new font feel more difficult to read—and therefore boosting our memory of that information.

The original team carried out a study on 400 students, and found that 57% remembered facts written in Sans Forgetica, whereas 50% remembered facts written in Arial.

For the new paper in Memory, researchers conducted four experiments and found no evidence of memory-boosting effects.

The four experiments included:

  1. Establishing the extent to which material written in Sans Forgetica feels difficult to process.
  2. Comparing people’s memory for information displayed in Sans Forgetica and Arial.
  3. Analyzing the extent to which Sans Forgetica boosted people’s memory for information in educational text.
  4. Testing people’s understanding of concepts presented in either Sans Forgetica or Arial.

Across the four experiments with 882 people, the researchers found that in Experiment One, Sans Forgetica felt harder to read compared to Arial.

In Experiment Two, they found that when they showed people pairs of words in Sans Forgetica or Arial, people recalled fewer Sans Forgetica pairs than Arial pairs.

In Experiment Three, they found that when they showed people some educational information in Sans Forgetica and Arial, and then tested them on their recall of the information, there was no evidence that Sans Forgetica improved their performance.

Finally, in Experiment Four, they found that when testing people’s understanding of educational passages presented in Sans Forgetica or Arial, people had equal understanding of information presented in Sans Forgetica and Arial, and there was no proof that Sans Forgetica improved their understanding.

“After conducting four peer-reviewed experiments into Sans Forgetica and comparing it to Arial, we can confidently say that Sans Forgetica promotes a feeling of disfluency, but does not boost memory like it is claimed to,” says Kimberley Wade, from the psychology department at Warwick University.

“In fact, it seems like although Sans Forgetica is novel and hard to read, its effects might well end there.”

“Our findings suggest we should encourage students to rely on robust, theoretically-grounded techniques that really do enhance learning, rather than hard-to-read fonts,” says Andrea Taylor from the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

Source: University of Warwick