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Ergonomics. 2003 Mar 15;46(4):327-44.

Effects of label format on knowledge acquisition and perceived readability by younger and older adults.

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Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, 640 Poe Hall, Campus Box 7801, Raleigh, NC 27695-7801, USA.


This research examines consumers' information acquisition and preference for labels of a simulated over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Twelve otherwise identical OTC drug bottles were compared with different back labels varying in (a) print size, (b) amount of white space between text, and (c) label design (standard vs extended/pull-out). A no back label condition served as a control. Older (mean age=77.7 years) and younger (mean age=21 years) adults were given one of the 12 bottles and asked to perform one of two information acquisition tasks: (a) they examined the bottle for 3 minutes and then completed a questionnaire with the bottle absent, or (b) they answered the same questionnaire while the bottle was present. Afterwards, participants were given all of the bottles and asked to rank them according to perceived readability. The younger adults' information acquisition performance was significantly better than the older adults' for all label conditions except the control condition where both groups' low performance did not differ. Specifically, the older adults' performance was significantly better in the medium and large print conditions than in the small print conditions--with the latter conditions not differing from the control condition. Younger adults showed no performance differences among the different print-size conditions. No substantial effects on knowledge acquisition performance from the white space manipulations were found. However, the perceived readability ranks showed that both groups preferred larger print size and white space. The white space effect was smaller than for print size, particularly for older adults. The extended/pull-out label design was facilitative for older adults in that it allowed the use of larger print. The results suggest that older consumers may be unable to acquire information in the 'fine' print frequently found in various kinds of product literature.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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