Science/AAAS

ScienceShot: Large Fonts Elicit Big Emotions

WORDS IN ALL CAPS can be annoying, but since they look larger than their neighbors, they capture our attention. Words displayed in large fonts have a similar effect-and they also elicit stronger emotional responses, according to a new study. Researchers measured brain activity in 25 German adults while showing them 72 emotionally positive, negative, and neutral words. They included German words for gift, death, and chair. The team displayed the words in either 28-point or 125-point Arial font. Volunteers displayed stronger emotion-related brain activity 10 milliseconds earlier for the larger font size versus the smaller one, the authors report online today in PLoS ONE. What's more, emotional signals elicited by the larger font size lasted a total of 180 milliseconds longer. The results are similar to emotional responses to large and small versions of pictures with fearful, disgusting, or sex-related content. Pictures hold biological relevance for people, since a big photo of a predator probably signals proximity to you. Similar emotional effects on font sizes probably reflect the importance language holds in our society, the authors speculate.

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Posted in Brain & Behavior