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  • Writer's pictureDillon Murphy

The Perceived Importance of Words in Large Font Guides Learning and Selective Memory


M&C_Murphy, Rhodes, & Castel, 2024
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The Perceived Importance of Words in Large Font Guides Learning and Selective Memory

Dillon H. Murphy, Matthew G. Rhodes, and Alan D. Castel


People are often presented with large amounts of information to remember, and in many cases, the font size of information may be indicative of its importance (such as headlines or warnings). In the present study, we examined how learners perceive the importance of information in different font sizes and how beliefs about font size influence selective memory. In Experi- ment 1, participants were presented with to-be-remembered words that were either unrelated or related to a goal (e.g., items for a camping trip) in either small or large font. Participants rated words in large font as more important to remember than words in small font when the words in a list were unrelated but not when the words were schematically related to a goal. In Experiments 2 and 3, we were interested in how learners’ belief that font size is indicative of importance translates to their ability to selectively encode and recall valuable information. Specifically, we presented participants with words in vari- ous font sizes, and larger fonts either corresponded to greater point values or smaller point values (values counted towards participants’ scores if recalled). When larger fonts corresponded with greater point values, participants were better able to selectively remember high-value words relative to low-value words. Thus, when to-be-remembered information varies in value, font size may be less diagnostic of an item’s importance (the item’s importance drives memory), and when the value of information is consistent with a learner’s belief, learners can better engage in selective memory.

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