Disfluent fonts don’t help people solve math problems.

Meyer, A, Frederick, S, Burnham, TC, Guevara Pinto, JD, Boyer, TW, Ball, LJ orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5099-0124, Pennycook, G, Ackerman, R, Thompson, VA et al (2015) Disfluent fonts don’t help people solve math problems. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144 (2). e16-e30. ISSN 0096-3445

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000049


Prior research suggests that reducing font clarity can cause people to consider printed information more carefully. The most famous demonstration showed that participants were more likely to solve counterintuitive math problems when they were printed in hard-to-read font. However, after pooling data from that experiment with 16 attempts to replicate it, we find no effect on solution rates. We examine potential moderating variables, including cognitive ability, presentation format, and experimental setting, but we find no evidence of a disfluent font benefit under any conditions. More generally, though disfluent fonts slightly increase response times, we find little evidence that they activate analytic reasoning.

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