Mobility often imposes on us the use of digital devices. Smartphones and tablets have replaced desktops but also our writing pad. It is so convenient and practical that we tend to use the new devices even when it would be equally practical to take or to send a hand note, or to talk a to a nearby person. What we often do not consider is the effect this process has on our brain, and the long-term effectiveness of what we produce by only using digital tools.
image from https://www.engadget.com
Several studies revealed that managing information only through digital devices affects our creativity and our ability to consider the broader context.
A study conducted in May (described in a paper entitled “High-Low Split: Divergent Cognitive Construal Levels Triggered by Digital and Non-Digital Platforms,” by Geoff Kaufman and Mary Flanagan) produced amazing results: individuals who use devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones for reading purposes may focus more on concrete details rather than the bigger picture. The findings suggest excessive tech use may be influencing abstract thinking.
The study author Geoff Kaufman told The Huffington Post that participants in a survey were asked to fill out a Behavior Identification Form, which measures a person’s method of thinking when it comes to describing basic, everyday behaviors. Subjects were either “concrete thinkers,” describing actions in detail using facts, or “abstract thinkers” who attached meaning to actions instead of attaching concrete characteristics.
Print readers got 66 percent of the abstract questions correct on average, while the digital readers only answered 48 percent of them accurately. For concrete questions, digital readers got 73 percent correct while print readers got 58 percent correct. Abstract thinking is good for long-term knowledge and strategy. Concrete thinking is better to solve immediate problems, using solutions not necessarily linked to a wider, longer term picture.
But, what about writing? Is there any effect on our brain when we use digital devices instead of handwriting? Researchers from the University of Greifswald in Germany looked at this aspect. The brain becames very active during the creative process of writing, while during copywriting the brain did not show similar activity. Using a computer leads people to mindless processing. Ink-and-paper writing, on the other hand, supports brain processes beyond mere hearing and recording information.
According to the blog Live Lighter, this leads to a conclusion: it’s important to maintain a regular writing practice in order to support the creative processes in the brain. This is demonstrated also by another study: researchers from UCLA found that students who took notes in longhand achieved much better results than the group of students who used laptops to take notes by typing.
Here are the reasons given by the author of the Blog, Rachel Bartee, to go back to the old-school pen-and-paper method:
- Handwriting activates thinking processes. It makes everything easier to remember, since it stimulates the brain to think while writing.
- Although it takes more time to write the same sentence in handwriting when compared to typing, you shouldn’t perceive that as a disadvantage. In fact, it’s the perfect time you need for thinking as you write. Researchers found that note-taking with a pen gave people a better grasp of the presentation they were listening to.
- Handwriting keeps your brain sharp. Since you have the time to form a visual impression of the things you write by hand, it’s easier for your mind to process and memorize more data.
- Handwriting is important for cognitive development. A 2012 study showed that handwriting had an important influence over the brain activation when compared to typing. It is crucial for the early letter processing that leads to successful reading.
- Writing on paper develops your fine motor skills. People with beautiful handwriting have impressive control over their hands.
- One of the greatest benefits of handwriting is its autosuggestion effect. Do you remember how Bart Simpson had to write auto-suggestions on the chalkboard? Well, the technique works. When you repetitively write down sentences like “I will work harder” or “I will stay calm,” the suggestions tend to stick into your subconscious levels.
Digital is good but should not be our only solution… It is better to teach our children not to relay solely on digital communication.
image from http://writetodone.com/
 Watch the related presentation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0U0C7A14YI