A “Font” of Knowledge? Can Using the Sans Forgetica Font Help You Learn?

According to RMIT University‘s site, Sans Forgetica is a font that “is scientifically designed to help you remember your study notes.”

Here’s the scoop. A team of behavioral scientists and designers at RMIT University, a public university in Melbourne, Australia, developed a new font based on the concept of “desirable difficulty“. This concept was first coined by Robert A. Bjork in 1994, basically describes tasks that require a considerable but desirable amount of effort to perform, thereby improving long-term performance. So, the theory is, according to RMIT,

Sans Forgetica is more difficult to read than most typefaces – and that’s by design. The ‘desirable difficulty’ you experience when reading information formatted in Sans Forgetica prompts your brain to engage in deeper processing.

So why use this font? Think about it this way. If you want to remember something – an important section of an article, study notes, etc. – use the Sans Forgetica font. The font prompts your brain to “engage in deeper processing”, creating a level of desirable difficulty, thus helping you remember more.

Dr. Janneke Blijlevens and Dr. Jo Peryman from RMIT’s Behavioural Business Lab informed the design of Sans Forgetica, in collaboration with the School of Design, using principles of cognitive psychology to enhance memory retention. See more in their video below.

This isn’t a font you want to use for novels, but for short sections of an article, or the study notes you want to retain. You can check out The Guardian’s article on Sans Forgetica written in Sans Forgetica to see a good example.

Give it a try! You can download the font for free, and install the Google Chrome Extension.

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On Social Learning and Behavioral Cues

Social Learning Theory combines cognitive and behavioral learning theories to posit that we learn both from psychological factors and environmental stimuli.

“Psychologist Albert Bandura integrated these two theories and came up with four requirements for learning: observation (environmental), retention (cognitive), reproduction (cognitive), and motivation (both). This integrative approach to learning was called social learning theory.”

An aspect of this is the cues we read from others. Our brains are hardwired for this from birth. We track posture, eye movement, and body language. As adults, we may learn about how communication is 7% words, 38% tone, and 55% body language;  however, even according to researcher Albert Mehrabian, whose work led to these percentages, there is no exact formula, the importance of non-verbal communication is quite clear.

To put this into context with social learning, the interaction we have with others during the learning process can play a big role in our learning. Our brain picks up on these social cues and helps us tune in to the attitude of the person we are working with or learning from. Research has found that the ability to track eye gaze and interpret it, is a crucial component of collaborative learning. Why is this important?

As the video below discusses, when children are put together in small groups they have more opportunity to track information with their eyes. Implicit and explicit learning can take place. This same approach can work with adult learning. Collaborative learning can yield great results in teams or cohorts, or with co-workers.

Take a look at the following video posted by Edutopia to learn a little more.

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“My Life Through A Lens”