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Errol Morris on why some fonts are more trustworthy than others

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Writer and filmmaker Errol Morris conducted an experiment on whether people perceived statements written in one font as more trustworthy than the same words in another.

Google fonts
Google fonts

Last month, filmmaker and writer Errol Morris (known for documentaries Standard Operating Procedure and The Fog of War) quoted a brief paragraph and asked New York Times readers if they agreed with its premise: that "we are living in an era of unprecedented safety." Though the question ostensibly measured whether the reader was an optimist or pessimist, Morris was actually testing something different: are people more likely to trust text when it's written in certain fonts?

Now, Morris has published his results, along with an interesting essay on writing and font styles and analysis from psychology professor David Dunning at Cornell University. It turns out that people who saw the statement in "starchy" and formal font Baskerville were more likely to agree with it, while text written in Helvetica or (more predictably) Comic Sans sparked more disagreement. According to Dunning, the differences were relatively small but unlikely to have happened by chance. This isn't too surprising, but if nothing else, it's another reason to dislike the Comic Sans Higgs Boson poster.