Sans Forgetica: Font Developed by Scientists Helps You Remember More of What You Read

Scientists and designers have created a font that supposedly helps people to remember more of what they read. Called Sans Forgetica, it was developed by typographic designers and psychologists, building on theory and design principles that relate to memory retention.

The researchers, from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia, based the font on the learning principle “desirable difficulty.” This is where an obstruction is introduced to the learning process, making an individual work just a little bit harder to retain information. Supposedly, this leads to "deeper cognitive processing."

Janneke Blijlevens of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab said that in many cases, readers just glance over text without creating a trace memory. Similarly, if what the person is reading is mostly illegible, the brain cannot process the information to retain it.

The key to Sans Forgetica was reaching the middle ground. To get there, researchers tested various fonts on 400 students before they discovered the one that provided the best memory retention. The font is distinctive enough to make readers dwell on each word a little longer, but is not so difficult to read that they give up trying.

“Sans Forgetica lies at a sweet spot where just enough obstruction has been added to create that memory retention,” Blijlevens said in a statement.

RMIT Study Note An example of the Sans Forgetica font, which was created by typographic designers and psychologists. sansforgetica.rmit

Stephen Banham, a lecturer in typography at the RMIT, worked with a multidisciplinary team to come up with Sans Forgetica. “This cross-pollination of thinking has led to the creation of a new font that is fundamentally different from all other fonts. It is also a clear application of theory into practice, something we strive for at RMIT,” he said in a statement.

Jo Peryman, chair of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab, said, “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.”

John Aggleton, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Britain’s Cardiff University, said the font should—at least for some time—provide a memory boost. "Memory is not a passive process," he told Newsweek. "For this reason, mere exposure to information does not guarantee an enduring memory. Rather, memory works best when we are actively engaged with information, having to process its meaning. 

“This new font has been cleverly constructed so that the reader has to do much more than just scan the page,” Aggleton continued. “Reading the text requires immersion in its content to ensure that each word is correctly identified. In this way, the font should lead to improved recall. Interesting questions include the possibility that overuse of the font may reduce its potential memory-enhancing effect, as we learn the skills to read it more rapidly and more superficially.”

Sans Forgetica, researchers say, can be used by students studying for exams. You can download it as a font and a Chrome browser extension by going to sansforgetica.rmit/.

While the font is supposed to promote memory retention, no research has been published showing it actually does. Evidence-based methods of improving memory include meditation, eating a healthy Mediterranean-based diet and taking regular breaks.

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