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Why Writing by Hand Is Better for Memory and Learning

There’s been evidence for years that it’s better to take notes by handwriting than typing. New research is finally giving us an answer as to why.

Handwriting uses more regions of your brain and builds connections between physical and visual parts of the brain. That makes it easier to learn and pay attention, according to a recent study in Frontiers in Psychology by Audrey van de Meer and Ruud van der Weel at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The two researchers dove into the intricate workings of the brain during note-taking by using helmets with sensors to monitor students' brains. The research builds on a study from 2014, which hinted at the lower effort of typing notes on a computer as compared to handwritten notes. Van de Meer and van der Weel found that handwriting produces higher levels of electrical activity across interconnected brain regions responsible for sensory processing, movement, memory, and vision. On the other hand, typing led to minimal activity in these areas.

The study showed that physically writing letters creates a connection between that action and a piece of information. “It’s very tempting to type down everything that the lecturer is saying,” van der Meer said. “It kind of goes in through your ears and comes out through your fingertips, but you don’t process the incoming information.”

Research indicates that handwriting plays a huge role in childhood development, particularly in letter recognition and skill-building. Sophia Vinci-Booher, assistant professor of education neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, said the new study demonstrates that handwriting is a similar way of learning to imagining and then creating something. It suggests that handwriting engages different brain regions more than other learning methods. While digital technology undoubtedly offers lots of educational advantages such as efficiency and accessibility it may not be the best way to learn and shouldn’t be overused.

In an age where digital devices are becoming a big part of our lives, the act of handwriting notes in class can appear outdated. However, research suggests that the traditional method of pencil and paper remains unmatched, especially for youth.

[Source: Scientific American]

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