By Glide Print
Professor Naomi S. Baron, Professor of Linguistics Emerita at the American University found “Studies show that [students] actually score higher when they have read the material in print before being tested.”
“READING ON PAPER [IS] BETTER FOR CONCENTRATION, LEARNING AND REMEMBERING THAN READING DIGITALLY.”
Looking deeper into the reasons for this discrepancy between print and digital results, Professor Baron found that paper’s tactile properties are a significant contributor because the feel of it and the physical properties of the printed word fit naturally into the brain’s way of navigating information in the same way we process maps: we remember locations.
Not only do words on paper allow us to go back over sections and help us recall where certain information is kept, we attach a position to it. This enhanced “spatial memory” quality of paper allows us to file information more easily by associating it with a location. Anyone familiar with enhanced memory techniques will recognise this as a standard method used by people with exceptional memory recall.
One of the reasons the disruptive effect of scrolling reduces interest and comprehension is because it breaks up this way we have of absorbing information through ‘road maps’ of the mind. A piece of digital information flits past our eyes and is gone and we have to concentrate to recall where it was we saw it. We navigate information better on paper because it provides a more stable way of retaining these locations, which then helps us to recall that information.
Professor Baron also discovered that “people approach digital texts with a mindset suited to casual social media, and devote less mental effort than when they are reading print.”
We’ve developed a way of coping with the overload of digital material by taking it less seriously. This has resulted in diminished trust in what we see in digital communications and spending less energy concentrating on it.
One recent study at Showa University School of Medicine in Tokyo, also uncovered a fascinating connection between a reduction in sighing when reading a digital text as opposed to a paper text. This change in breathing was due to an increased activity in a specific brain activity that inhibits concentration. They concluded this was due to the effect of digital’s blue screens, a feature of digital consumption well documented as detrimental to our natural processes.
Reading on paper is a natural way to communicate. We can touch paper. It has a credibility that digital media doesn’t and it works seamlessly with the way our brains operate to create a link between comprehension, memory and desire to act.
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