Over 400,000 people visited Farnam Street last month to learn how to make better decisions, create new ideas, and avoid stupid errors. With more than 100,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub. To learn more about we what do, start here.

Fluency Effect

Which would you enjoy more, velvety mashed potatoes or velvety mashed potatoes? Nobody has yet done a study on the effect of fonts on the taste of mashed potatoes, but a study has been done on the effects of font on attitudes toward preparing food. In that study participants were asked to read a recipe for creating a Japanese lunch dish, then to rate the amount of effort and skill they thought the recipe would require and how likely they were to prepare the dish at home. Subjects who were presented with the recipe in a difficult-to-read font rated the recipe as more difficult and said they were less likely to attempt to make the dish.

The researchers repeated the experiment, showing other subjects a one-page description of an exercise routine instead of a recipe, and found similar results: subjects rated the exercise as harder and said there were less likely to try it when the instructions were printed in a font that was hard to read. Psychologists call this the “fluency effect.” If the form of information is difficult to assimilate, that affects our judgments about the substance of that information.

— via Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior