Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Does the font you use in a paper affect the grade you receive? This student thinks so:
...My essays written in Georgia did the best overall. This got me thinking as to why that might be: maybe fonts speak a lot louder than we think they do. Especially to a professor who has to wade through a collection of them; Times seems to be the norm, so it really doesn't set off any subconcious triggers. Georgia is enough like Times to retain its academic feel, and is different enough to be something of a relief for the grader. Trebuchet seems to set off a negative trigger, maybe just based on the fact that it's not as easy to read in print, maybe on the fact that it looks like something off a blog rather than an academic journal. Who knows.

...What I'm not opposed to saying, however, is that the style used in an essay certainly seems to influence grading tendencies, even if that is at an unconcious level. I think that it's possible that a person sees a Serif font and thinks "proper, academic", and sees a Sans font and thinks "focus is on the style, not the substance; must lack integrity". Maybe.

But, it's hard to deny this, evidenced over 52 papers. Within each of the three fonts I used, there wasn't terribly much variance, either. It's not like these were just written for one subject, either: a wide range of disciplines were included, from Philosophy to Economics to Marketting to Political Science to Computer Science, even having paper on Computational Neuromodelling thrown in there.
Obviously, this is not a controlled double-blind study. But it is intriguing nonetheless. (Via Dave Does The Blog.)