Metamemory and Memory for a Wide Range of Font Sizes: What is the Contribution of Perceptual Fluency?

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Words printed in a larger 48-point font are judged to be more memorable than words printed in a smaller 18-point font, although font size does not affect actual memory. To clarify the basis of this font size effect on metamemory and memory, 4 experiments investigated how presenting words in 48 (Experiment 1) or 4 (Experiments 2 to 4) font sizes between 6 point and 500 point affected judgments of learning (JOLs) and recall performance. Response times in lexical decision tasks were used to measure perceptual fluency. In all experiments, perceptual fluency was lower for words presented in very small and very large font sizes than for words presented in intermediate font sizes. In contrast, JOLs increased monotonically with font size, even beyond the point where a large font impaired perceptual fluency. Assessments of people’s metacognitive beliefs about font size revealed that the monotonic increase in JOLs was not due to beliefs masking perceptual fluency effects (Experiment 3). Also, JOLs still increased across the whole range of font sizes when perceptual fluency was made salient at study (Experiment 4). In all experiments but Experiment 4, recall performance increased with increasing font size, although to a lesser extent than JOLs. Overall, the current study supports the idea that metacognitive beliefs underlie font size effects in metamemory. As important, it reveals that people’s font size beliefs have some accuracy.

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