The experiment is strange, but the lesson is intuitive: Don’t be afraid to tackle tough topics.

The experiment: Students were given papers to study, and some were in fonts that were difficult to read. Others were given a standard, readable font.

The students that had to struggle did significantly better – especially on more difficult subject matter. Researchers concluded that the extra effort triggered deeper processing of the material.

Researchers say of course you can prompt deep processing without using unusual fonts – for example, by:
• asking workers to create outlines of difficult material from scratch, and
• testing trainees so they are forced to engage the material (e.g., ask for an application).

Source: Diemand-Yauman, et al., “Fortune favors the bold (and the italicized): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes.” Cognition: In press.

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