In Search of the Font Effect: The Effect of Conflict upon Reading and Naming Typefaces Serially

By Christopher T. Dean and Raymond M. Klein.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Stroop (1935) demonstrated that conflicting words interfered with colour naming while conflicting colours did not interfere with word reading. In our study — a collaboration between a typographer and a psychologist — we re-created Stroop’s study by replacing colour names with typeface names, ink colours with typefaces, and control colour squares with a pseudoword. Relatively expert participants who could recognize the five typefaces (Helvetica, Courier, Papyrus, Garamond and Ondine) were asked to read and name the typefaces from a 10 × 10 matrix, modeled after Stroop’s original materials, with and without conflict. (Typographer:) “Despite the specialized skill for typeface recognition in our participants” we replicated Stroop’s finding of asymmetrical interference, (Psychologist:) “confirming the dominance of reading.”

Keywords: Font Effect, Stroop Effect, Interference, Conflict, Typography, Psychology, Font, Typeface, Reading, Naming

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp.401-420. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 17.104MB).

Christopher T. Dean

Graduate Student, Master of Design Program, NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Christopher Dean is a typographer. He strives to set text to make it easier to read as supported by research in the domains of reading comprehension and cognitive psychology. He also conducts experimental research designed to support or refute typographic conventions in accordance with objective measures of human performance and empirical data. He is graduate of the NSCAD University Master of Design (MDes) program during which time he worked under the supervision of Professor Raymond Klein, Chair of the Department of Psychology for Dalhousie University and Professor Hanno Ehses, MDes Program Director for NSCAD University.

Prof. Raymond M. Klein

Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Raymond M. Klein is a University Research Professor at Dalhousie University, chairperson of the Department of Psychology and past president of the Canadian Society for Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science. Professor Klein is a cognitive scientist who, since his first sabbatical at Bell Telephone Laboratories, has a palpable interest in applying the methods of experimental psychology to help solve real-world problems. He has conducted research with the Canadian Defense Department (on non-random spatial choice behavior), Nortel Technologies (on graphic user interface design), Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, now NSCAD University (on where do art students look when drawing from observation, and how does this change with training), and most recently with the Bank of Canada (on the detection and perception of counterfeit currency). His research strategies are most strongly influenced by those of Donald Hebb, Donald Broadbent and Michael Posner. His research interests include: visual attention and its disorders, reading and dyslexia, applied cognitive psychology and the design of things we use.

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