Cognitive disfluency

February 5, 2014

The key concept (…), explored in depth by the psychologist Adam Alter, author of the book Drunk Tank Pink, is “cognitive disfluency”. When information glides by too frictionlessly, we’re liable to find it harder both to understand and to retain.

When a font’s harder to read, writes Alter, “we assume the task is difficult and requires additional mental effort … We respond by recruiting additional mental resources to overcome that challenge, and our responses tend to be more accurate.” Other studies have found that information received in unfamiliar fonts is memorised more effectively, and that it may be harder to grasp material consumed in e-book form, where the words slide by as if on ice skates, than in print.

Oliver Burkeman: Stop trying to make the web look ‘beautiful’ – I’ve forgotten it already

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