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Nothing can undo the invention of Comic Sans, but that may not be a bad thing since it seems to be helping people with dyslexia.

Hosted by: Brit Garner
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Sources:
https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/DisruptionofPosteriorBrainSystemsforReadinginChildrenwithDevelopmentalDyslexia.pdf
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254696696_A_Comparison_of_Popular_Online_Fonts_Which_Size_and_Type_is_Best
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ricardo_Baeza-Yates/publication/239761586_Layout_guidelines_for_web_text_and_a_web_service_to_improve_accessibility_for_dyslexics/links/02e7e53313bbc5c9bc000000/Layout-guidelines-for-web-text-and-a-web-service-to-improve-accessibility-for-dyslexics.pdf?origin=publication_detail
http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/sites/default/files/good_fonts_for_dyslexia_study.pdf
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004269891300285X
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Pavel_Zikl/publication/276859439_The_Possibilities_of_ICT_Use_for_Compensation_of_Difficulties_with_Reading_in_Pupils_with_Dyslexia/links/572f7fe708ae744151904a1d/The-Possibilities-of-ICT-Use-for-Compensation-of-Difficulties-with-Reading-in-Pupils-with-Dyslexia.pdf
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11881-016-0127-1
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5629233/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5934461/
https://lihttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5629233/nk.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11881-017-0154-6
[INTRO ♪].

A lot of people love to rag on Comic Sans, and if you've ever seen someone use it, you might not be surprised. After all, even though it's a pretty childish-looking font, people keep slapping it on official memos, important signs, and anything that's supposed to be remotely fun.

And don't even get your designer friends started on the other problems with it. Still, for as much as people love to hate Comic Sans, it might actually be doing some good in the world. Specifically, many people with dyslexia have pointed out that using it helps them read more easily—which is great.

Except, from what researchers can tell, Comic Sans shouldn't actually be as useful as it is for dyslexia, no matter how many people prefer it. And that might mean there's something going on we don't understand. Dyslexia is a common reading disorder that boils down to a deficit in phonology, a component of reading that involves processing the sound structures that make up language.

You sometimes hear that it involves swapping around words or letters or reading backwards, but that's not universally true. Instead, someone might have trouble sounding out words, naming letters and numbers, or recognizing words based on what they look like. Really, though, there are many types of the disorder and many different components of reading, so there's no single type of dyslexic brain.

That also means there's no easy fix, but simple and accessible modifications, like tweaking a font, might help. That's where Comic Sans comes in. In general, studies have shown that fonts like it—ones that don't use serifs, feature lots of unique characters, and aren't too smashed together—are rated highly by those with dyslexia.

It's hard to say specifically why they're helpful, because scientists haven't really done brain studies of people reading in different fonts. It could just be that something like Comic Sans is easier and more relaxing to read, than, say, Cambria. But regardless, it is promising enough to get people interested.

In fact, designers have taken these observations to a new level over the years. They've used those design elements—stuff like unique letter shapes and careful spacing—to create styles of fonts specifically for folks with dyslexia, like one in 2010 called Dyslexie. The idea is that if fonts with some of those design elements are helpful, then imagine how great one with all of them would be.

Except, fonts like Dyslexie aren't exactly blowing away expectations. While the research isn't that robust, the specialized font doesn't consistently perform better for reading speed or comprehension than stock fonts like Arial, Times, Georgia... or Comic Sans. Which seems surprising.

Like, Comic Sans checks some of the boxes, but it doesn't have all of those preferred design elements. It lacks wide character spacing, for example. So why would people with dyslexia prefer it over a specially-designed, supposedly optimized font?

Well, that might suggest there's something we don't quite understand about the intersection of dyslexia and design. This could be because dyslexia looks different for different people. Some research has concluded that the disorder can stem from visual sensitivity and attentional deficits.

But other studies point to deficits in different brain areas. So maybe certain design elements are only useful for certain kinds of dyslexia. Or maybe we don't fully understand why these design features are as useful as they are.

Maybe we're focusing too hard on one part of the picture and missing something else entirely. Right now, we just don't have a clear answer because it's not something researchers have looked at. For now, this all means that the best font for someone with a reading difficulty is the one they like the most.

The one that helps out their individual brain. Even if it is Comic Sans. Honestly, though, if the font is out there doing good, it's hard to be upset about it—even if we're not totally sure why it works.

And hey, at least it's not Papyrus. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Psych! If you'd like to keep exploring all of the strange, fascinating ways that your brain works, you can find more videos and subscribe at youtube.com/scishowpsych. [OUTRO ♪].