The write stuff

2 minute read

The pen and paper are mightier than the 1 and 0 for remembering information.

It gives your back page correspondent no end of pleasure when he comes across solid empirical evidence that supports a long-held, but purely anecdote-based, belief.

In this particular case, it is the firmly held view that physically writing something down using the antiquated technology of yesteryear, such as a pen and piece of paper, really does help a person to remember stuff. 

We have Japanese boffins to thank for these welcome findings.   

Research recently published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, hasdemonstrated thatwriting on physical paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information an hour later.

The researchers believe the complex spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to the improved memory.

“Actually, paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall,” Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai, a neuroscientist at the University of Tokyo and an author of the research, said.

But surely employing Silicon Valley’s latest whizzbangery for notetaking is at the very least more efficient than using ink and dead-tree?

Ain’t necessarily so, our scientists say. In fact, volunteers in this study who used pen and paper completed note-taking tasks about 25% faster than those who used digital tablets or smartphones.

Physical paper allowed for tangible permanence, irregular strokes, and uneven shape, our researchers said. In contrast, digital paper was uniform, had no fixed position when scrolling, and disappeared when you closed the app.

“Our take-home message is to use paper notebooks for information we need to learn or memorise,” Professor Sakai said.

If you see something curious, say something curious … Send handwritten tips to, crayon preferred.

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