Bad type = better analytical thinking

gthompson's picture

The July 2012 issue of Scientific American (Advances: How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God) points out that a hard to read font "...promotes analytic thinking by forcing volunteers to slow down and deliberate more carefully...". People in the study discussed in the article expressed less belief in God compared to those who read material in a "clear" or easy to read font. Maybe we have been doing this all wrong.

John Hudson's picture

If you're genuinely concerned that reading two different pieces of text is going to skew speed and accuracy results, that hypothesis can itself be tested by isolating just the difference in text. Do it a few times, and you'll easily establish a baseline of average reading speed and accuracy for different texts of similar lexical and stylistic complexity*, not only that, you'll have measures of the variance from that average and can weed out test subjects whose individual results vary too far from that of the majority of participants. Then you can start varying other factors such as type size, etc. and compare the results to the established average.

*Bear in mind that word processing software has been able to automatically rate the complexity level of prose writing for at least twenty years, so its not like you even need to base the text selection of subjective judgement. And there's this thing called the Internet that is a vast repository of text, examples of which can be located and selected based on common level of lexical difficulty and stylistic complexity.

etahchen's picture

i didn't read the entire pdf. but could it be that since the type is difficult to read, the reader subconsciously starts rejecting some of the material since their mind is having a hard time making sense of what is being read?

Thomas Phinney's picture

That wouldn't make sense of the results, which are rather the opposite. The stuff that is harder to read has more impact.

dezcom's picture

Do you mean something like this comparison?

Thomas Phinney's picture

Heh. Why, yes.

dezcom's picture


Thomas Phinney's picture

Of course, that is pushing towards actually being illegible... there's some sort of cliff where type ceases to really communicate, except on an emotional level.

dezcom's picture

Yes, when it becomes a sign of its own.

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