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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

New survey bias of the month

From: Reporter's Notebook

Researchers will be familiar with the myriad ways in which the act of asking a question can influence the answer that a respondent gives. Question phrasing, question ordering, interviewer bias. But have you ever encountered the “font effect”?

Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris used his New York Times blog to pose a question to his readers in July: did they agree or not with author David Deutsch’s claim that we are living in an era of unprecedented safety? The question itself was fairly straightforward, but the execution of it was slightly more complex.

Morris was interested in seeing whether different fonts affect people’s thinking, so the question that was presented to readers rotated through a series of six different fonts. The results, when weighted, showed that people were much more likely to agree with the statement when it was written in Baskerville, compared to Comic Sans, which had the lowest rate of agreement. Funny that.

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