Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have invented a new font named "Sans Forgetica" that has been demonstrated to increase retention. And you can download it, or add it to Google Chrome, for free.

Do you sometimes have a hard time remembering something you've read even a day or two after you've read it? Or worse, do you find yourself reading the same article twice, because you didn't remember that you'd read it before? Scientists at RMIT University believe their new font may fix that problem, enabling you to remember what you read when it counts, for instance when you're trying to absorb important facts right before a negotiation or a meeting with a customer.

Sans Forgetica is decidedly odd looking. It slants backward and there are gaps in all of the letters. How does this aid retention? Because it creates a "simple puzzle," for readers, according to Stephen Banham, a typography lecturer at RMIT who helped design the font. This simple puzzle engages the brain, making the text more memorable.

"Sans Forgetica works by a learning principle called 'desirable difficulty,' which is where an obstruction is added to the learning process in order to promote deeper cognitive processing, which results in better memory retention," Jo Peryman, chair of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab explains in a video about the new font. The idea is that the usual fonts, such as Arial or Times New Roman are so familiar that we glance over them and they don't create a "memory trace." On the other hand, a font that is too difficult to read can't be processed by the brain, so it doesn't create a memory trace either. Sans Forgetica falls in the "sweet spot" between these two where "just enough perceptual rules have been broken to create that memory trace," Janneke Blijlevens, founder member of the Behavioural Business Lab explains in the video. 

Researchers found that sweet spot by bringing more than 100 students to the lab for a memory test using fonts that were "broken" to various degrees, and found that this font led to the best retention. In further research on 400 students they found that students remembered 57 percent of what they read in Sans Forgetica, compared to 50 percent of what they read in Arial (a simple font that resembles the one you're reading right now). 

The same simple puzzle that makes material in Sans Forgetica easier to remember also makes it a little tougher to read, so you likely wouldn't want to read, say, a book or a lengthy article in that font. (You can check it out by reading The Guardian's article about Sans Forgetica in Sans Forgetica.) Instead, increase your retention of the sections of text you most want to recall by highlighting them and changing them into the font. If you use Google Chrome, here's an extension that will do just that. Or you can download the font itself from the Sans Forgetica website. It may not make you remember everything you read. But it just might help you retain the information you want most. 

Published on: Oct 8, 2018
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