Typing or writing: which works better for your memory?

I’d like to welcome Christine Allen to RMI. Christine is a young writer and blogger from Chicago and this is her first guest post for RMI. You can follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Typing or writing, mmm … which is best?

typing or writing

NEWS FLASH!  In an age where technical devices are becoming increasingly convenient, there could be drawbacks to the relentless advances in technology. If you rely on your laptop for note taking, you may be at risk of a slow memory loss condition.

According to psychological science, a study was done on the power of the pen versus the keyboard. The results concluded that the traditional form of pen and paper is superior. When writing notes longhand, your brain connects to that which you took the effort to jot down.

Research suggests the old methods work better

Scientists from Princeton University and University of California are also shaking their heads to new technology conveniences in note taking. Both incredible sources agree that typing notes on a laptop or any other device is highly ineffective.

Academic students who utilize their laptops to take notes in class are actually transcribing the information. These individuals may type out long paragraphs of detailed information without actually mentally connecting to the words. In actuality, electronic note-taking encourages robotic activity that simply enters in information rather than conceptualizes it.

In fact, conceptual information is built into the memory when ditching the laptop to write something down.

peanuts typing - typing or writing?In the study conducted by both universities, both groups of students listened to their instructor and took an exam shortly after. A group of students took notes on a laptop while others took the notes in longhand. The results were that all students did well as far as remembering the facts. However, those who wrote out their notes performed better when tested on their retention of the information given. Students who typed their notes did not conceptualize the information as well.

The wild part about this study is that even after instructed to stop transcribing, those who typed on a computer had difficulty doing so. Thus, even if the students tried not to type their notes, they could not fight the urge to continue!

Pen-and-paper note-taking seems to create a more intimate link

Researchers also found that the students who ditched the technology to write their notes retained conceptual information even better after a week. It has been found that those who write their notes with pen and paper understand the material in a deeper, more intimate way. In fact, these students are believed to score higher on exams than those who rely on technology.

So what can we collect from this experiment? Here are the benefits of writing versus typing:


1. Deeper Understanding. When you use the old traditional pen-and-paper method, you develop a stronger conceptual relationship with what you are writing. Writers also have the ability to apply the material. Those who utilize computer notes develop a disassociation with their work as they rely less on a connection and more on recording the material.

2. More Brain Power. It does not take much to open a laptop, press the power button, and begin typing what is heard. However, it does take more effort to write out important facts with the traditional note-taking method. In fact, writing requires parts of the brain that deal with cognitive processing that typing does not. Additionally, typing has a limit. While listening to a speaker, you can only type but so fast. Your brain, however, works overtime as it assists you in using your fingers to write vital information. It is possible to type as quickly as the speaker speaks, but the downfall of this method is that you hardly make a connection with what is being said.

3. Long-term Memory. Modern technology may be convenient, but it sure does not beat the ‘old school’ method. Handwriting has been proven to boost long-term memory. In the prior-mentioned study conducted by both universities, Princeton and the University of California found that a week later, the same students the schools tested understood the material even better than when first tested. The reason for this is that writing memory cues that come as a result of using your own words instead of transcribing.

4. Fewer Distractions. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that using a laptop computer is ten times more distracting than writing on paper. The temptation to check your social media, surf the web, or check your emails can be extremely strong especially after a long period. Writing requires more thought.

handwriting - typing or writing, which is best?So the next time you think about bringing your laptop computer to your lecture class, think again. Remember the information provided in this article. Think about the pros and cons. Let your good reasoning allow you to put down that technology device and pack a good old pen and paper. It may be the ‘old school’ way, but nonetheless it remains tried and true.

Christine Allen is a young writer and blogger. She believes that you can get everything that you want. You just need to be sure in what you really want and be patient. You can follow her on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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