This is What Writing by Hand Does to Your Brain – You May Never Want to Type Again!

With today’s reliance on the internet, it can sometimes seem impossible to drag our kids away from their laptops and tablets. Well, now we may have to. Laptop note taking has been rapidly increasing throughout college campuses, and a recent study shows that students who type their notes versus hand writing them score lower on tests. This finding can open our eyes to the effects of technology on learning and memory retention, and how it can influence us all.

Laptops and other mobile devices have been known to be distracting to students, allowing them to click over to twitter and facebook when their attention wavers in a lecture. It’s also reported that they are statistically less satisfied with their education than students who do not use laptops[1].

Will You Learn More from Writing or Typing?

A study, published in Psychological Science, was conducted by Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, to determine the effect that taking notes on a laptop versus writing in longhand may have on information retention in students.

In this study, three tests were conducted on university students.  All students listened and took notes during five TED Talks, and were later asked a series of questions to test their retention. The study found that the students that typed their notes copied the lecture verbatim, and had a higher word count than the hand writers. While both groups scored similarly on factual questions (e.g., “Approximately how many years ago did the Indus civilization exist?”) , the laptop note takers scored lower than the handwritten note takers when asked conceptual and integrative questions (e.g., “How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?”) [2].

“It may be that longhand note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently,” [3]

A similar thing happened in the second study when the laptop note takers were instructed not to copy the lecture verbatim. In this study, the laptop note takers again scored lower on conceptual questions, and “the instruction to not take verbatim notes was completely ineffective at reducing verbatim content” [4]

A third test was then run, where the students were given the opportunity to review their notes between the lecture and the testing. While laptop note takers scored higher on this test than the previous tests, the result of this study was that students writing in longhand again outperformed students typing on laptops[5].

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

 

Activates massive regions of the brain including thinking, language, and working memory

  1. Helps to maintain hand-eye coordination

  2. Increases self-confidence and motivation[7]

So What Can You Do?

While computers have done wonders in advancing the school system by making research quick and easy, it may be beneficial to go back to the “old school” way of taking notes, with pen and paper.

The question remains: is it possible to convince our children to ditch the laptop in favor of pen and paper?

“Ultimately, the take-home message is that people should be more aware of how they are choosing to take notes, both in terms of the medium and the strategy,” Mueller concludes [8].

So, the next time you need to remember something important, like your son’s baseball game, or your doctor’s appointment next week, it may be helpful to write it down in a planner rather than the calendar on your cell phone.

Keep Reading: 

8 Science Backed Ways to Improve Your Memory

7 Important Lifestyle Tweaks For Better Memory

[1] Christian Wurst, Claudia Smarkola, Mary Anne Gaffney. (December 2008). Ubiquitous laptop usage in higher education: Effects on student achievement, student satisfaction, and constructivist measures in honors and traditional classrooms. Retrieved September 5, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131508000808

[2] Pam A. Mueller, Daniel M. Oppenheimer. (May 22, 2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Retrieved September 5, 2017 from https://sites.udel.edu/victorp/files/2010/11/Psychological-Science-2014-Mueller-0956797614524581-1u0h0yu.pdf

[3] Pam A. Mueller. (April 24, 2014). Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension. Retrieved September 5, 2017 from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/take-notes-by-hand-for-better-long-term-comprehension.html

[4] Pam A. Mueller, Daniel M. Oppenheimer. (May 22, 2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Retrieved September 5, 2017 from https://sites.udel.edu/victorp/files/2010/11/Psychological-Science-2014-Mueller-0956797614524581-1u0h0yu.pdf

[5] Pam A. Mueller, Daniel M. Oppenheimer. (May 22, 2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. Retrieved September 5, 2017 from https://sites.udel.edu/victorp/files/2010/11/Psychological-Science-2014-Mueller-0956797614524581-1u0h0yu.pdf

[7] William R. Klemm Ph.D. (August 5, 2013). Biological and Psychology Benefits of Learning Cursive. Retrieved on September 5, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201308/biological-and-psychology-benefits-learning-cursive

[8] Pam A. Mueller. (April 24, 2014). Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension. Retrieved September 5, 2017 from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/take-notes-by-hand-for-better-long-term-comprehension.html

Video Source:

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roj8JVlcuIw&t=1s

Image Source:

media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/04/17/handwritten-note_wide-941ca37f3638dca912c8b9efda05ee9fefbf3147.jpg?s=1400

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