Think for a moment: when was the last time you wrote something longer than a quick note in handwriting? Many of us now rely upon digital tools for nearly everything, causing traditional handwriting – not to mention, old-school cursive – to quickly become a dying art. Yet, handwriting is important to our brain function. In fact, writing by hand possesses many benefits that typing can’t replicate.
Both Princeton University and the University of California Los Angeles conducted experiments to determine just how different handwriting is from typing. During the study, participants were asked to take notes on a lecture using one of the two methods and were tested on the material 30 minutes after the lecture and again a week later.
Once the results were in, the researchers could determine a few distinct differences between the students who typed their notes and those who wrote them down by hand. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the typists were able to best hand-writers in overall efficiency. Because they could copy down many more words per minute than hand-writers, they were able to capture a larger chunk of the lecture.
However, as the scientists discovered, typing efficiency has little to do with memory retention. The study found that typists and writers performed near-equally well on questions about the basic facts of the lecture, though typists faltered when it came to more conceptual questions. What’s more, when the students were revisited later, the ones who wrote notes by hand were able to remember the material much better than those who typed everything out.
What can we learn from the lesson? While computers and smartphones may be modern consumers’ preferred way to type, handwriting is still unparalleled when it comes to retaining conceptual information. It can also help you retain more information over the long run. So, the next time you need something to stick in your brain, try writing about it – science says you’ll comprehend and remember it better.
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