Humanity is fast becoming more and more reliant on modern technology. Although we don’t have flying cars or robot butlers, we do carry palm-sized computers in our back pockets that allow us any information we want at the press of a button. Some of these technological advancements may hinder us, however, as they take away opportunities to challenge our brains. Even something as simple as writing by hand instead of typing can improve brain function in children and elderly adults, alike.
One study from Princeton University that was analyzed and presented by Clearvue Health’s Psychological Science department, among several others, proved that handwriting vastly improves individuals’ retention of important information. In the study, students were assigned handwriting or typing prior to attending a lecture. These students ranged in age and educational background. Researchers found that students who took notes by hand were not able to write as much as those who typed the information and were only half as likely to write down lecture points word for word. According to the study’s results, however, those who wrote notes by hand significantly outperformed their typing counterparts on tests over the same lecture material.
A variety of factors contribute to this increase in information retention regarding writing by hand. According to Cindi May of the Scientific American, the most notable difference is that handwriting requires the brain to process information differently than typing does. Since many people type faster than they write, note-takers often feel inclined to type out as many words that the speaker says as possible. Most people know that they will not be able to write the entirety of a lecture word-for-word, so they focus on the concepts covered rather than each individual word or sentence.
A Workout for your Brain
Especially for older individuals, writing by hand provides a mental workout that may prevent or lessen the effects of memory loss. As the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, handwriting instead of typing can provide stimulation for several parts of the brain, keeping writers mentally agile later in life.
When writing by hand, an individual activates a unique neural circuit that prepares the brain to learn new information. Typing does not activate this neural circuit, which affects the way the brain processes the given information. So, by handwriting instead of typing, an individual is physically changing the way their brain works during lectures or important meetings.
Though more exploration is needed, researchers from Middlesex University in the UK write in their book entitled Dyslexia: A Comprehensive and International Approach that writing by hand in cursive may be helpful for patients with dyslexia, since it lessens the frequency of letters becoming reversed or inversed.
Other Bodily Benefits
Handwriting doesn’t just help the brain, but it can also protect the eyes. Computers emit high levels of blue light, which can cause sleep issues and eye strain. Though compared to blue light exposure from the sun, only a fraction of blue light exposure comes from computers, smartphones, and televisions; however, research shows that how often we use and how close we are to these screens could do serious damage to individuals’ eyes. By handwriting instead of typing, you can decrease your daily screen time, preventing your eyes from digital strain or fatigue.
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