Monday, April 16, 2012

Texts in simple fonts are taken less seriously

It´s not what you say; it´s how you say it. We all know that body language is extremely important when communicating face to face, but not as obvious is that fonts is a kind of body language for the written communication. Which can explain the appeal of Heinz Baked Beans for lazy bachelors...

Roger Dooley´s describes an interesting study in his book "Brainfluence":

“Researchers presented people with a description of a menu item printed in either a simple font or a harder-to-read font. The subjects who saw the difficult font rated the skills needed by the chef significantly higher than the subjects who saw the simple font.

The researcher´s explanation was that long descriptions with big words will slow down the reader and imply that more effort and skill go into preparing the dish.

Other research, by Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwartz, showed that when a text was in a simple font people believed the commitment to whatever the text was about would be easier. One group saw exercises described in a simple font and another group saw the same text in a complicated font. The second group thought that the exercise would take nearly twice as long, 15.1 minutes instead of 8.2 minutes. A similar test where people read instructions for a sushi recipe found that in Arial people thought it would take 5.6 minutes while in mistral 9.3 minutes.

Daniel Kahneman writes in his book “Thinking, fast and slow” that if you use color, you are more likely to be believed if your text is printed in bright blue or red than in middling shades of green, yellow, or pale blue. But if you want to write an instruction, research show that we perform better if the text is a little blurry, since this makes us frown and use system 2 (the logical part of the brain) more. Frowning normally accompanies cognitive strain and the effect is symmetric: when people are instructed to frown while doing a task, they actually try harder and experience greater cognitive strain.

For makers of technology this means you can attract tech-scared people by writing about your products with a simple font. For gyms, the same rule applies. But for skin care brands eager to tell us how complicated their products are, they should use as odd type as possible. For me as a blogger, I should not use Arial as the default font, but rather something complicated, to make you believe I´m smart :)

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