Writing by Hand Can Boost Memory and Understanding

Studies show the pen is mightier than the keyboard.


Education, Study
Writing by hand is good for your brain.

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The art of writing by hand has a venerable history. From Emily Dickinson’s elegant cursive, to Stephen King’s neat block lettering, many of the most famous and important works of literature have been written by hand, reports Forbes, even when, as in King’s case, electronic word processing was an option. Now, studies have shown that writing by hand can have enormous benefits in terms of memory, brain development, and even the quality of the writing itself. 

A Dying Art
Some might say that handwriting has become a dying art since the advent of the typewriter in the mid 1880’s, even more so due to computers. In fact, according to Treehugger , many schools in the United States no longer required teaching cursive as a part of the core curriculums. However, despite the sense that writing on paper is passe, it actually has a number of very important benefits

Writing by hand is not only important for language processing and memory, it is also important for cognitive development. A Psychology Today blog lays out the ways in which learning to write by hand teaches the brain “functional specialization” or in other words, optimal efficiency. In learning to write by hand, the human brain must integrate sensation, movement control, and thinking. For whatever reason, it does not do so when learning to type. 

Studies attest to the benefits of writing by hand
Writing by hands’ cognitive benefits are numerous and there are many studies that can attest to that. A 2021 study by the University of Tokyo shows that writing on paper could help students recall material better than typing on a keyboard.

Likewise, a 2014 study from the Association for Psychological Science shows that taking notes on a laptop as opposed to writing them longhand, leads to shallower processing of the material learned. This is because when using a laptop, students will often type out lectures verbatim, as opposed to processing information and rewording it in their own language. 

These benefits acutually translate to how you recall the information, In this case writing it by hand instead of typing also helps students do better on exams. A study led by Dr. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, suggests that children wrote longer and more complex essays when they were writing by hand, as opposed to using a keyboard. “Children consistently did better writing with a pen when they wrote essays. They wrote more and they wrote faster,” Berninger told Futurity.

So the next time you sit down to write an email to a loved one, consider the possibility that it might be better for your brain if you wrote a handwritten letter instead. 

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