No, not the fountain of youth. The font of truth. Wait, could there actually be a font that communicates truth? This little experiment explains that, yeah dudes, that might be the case.
Back in July, Errol Morris conducted an experiment. He wrote, as usual, a column for the New York Times called “Are You An Optimist or A Pessimist” in which he asked viewers to read a mildly controversial passage and decide whether they agree that the passage author’s statements were true. Not the most unbiased evaluation question, but it seems fairly straightforward, right?
Except that the whole optimist/pessimist thing was just a ruse. The real experiment was that the passage and the question about truth were randomly displayed in one of six fonts. So did the readers answer differently based on the passage’s font?
Here is the original test: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/are-you-an-optimist-or-a-pessimist/
When I got the test, the passage was set in Comic Sans.
After over 45,000 respondents read the passage and answered the question, Morris worked with research-y friends to crunch the numbers. By weighting the extent of agreement (strongly agree=5 to strongly disagree=1, obvs), there was a clear winner.
Baskerville. When the passage was set in Baskerville those readers tended to agree that the passage was true. Now, Morris didn’t include every single font available but this experiment does lend some credibility to the long-standing belief in font nerd circles that fonts have personalities. Their shapes and size and such communicate to the viewer, completely outside of the actual words they compose. The implication here is that Baskerville is seen as more truthful.
Should we all set our evaluation reports in Baskerville? Would it lead to less disagreement with our findings? Would doing so be deceptive? Hmm…
Are you geeking out about how cool this study is, too? Here is Morris’s admission to his deception, which includes more details about the study results: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/08/hear-all-ye-people-hearken-o-earth/