I have always loved putting a pen to paper – especially a quality pen to quality paper. It relaxes me and puts me into the creative mindset much the same way that walking does. However for me, the tactile sensory appeal of pen and paper has, in most cases, given way to the convenience and many benefits of capturing ideas with mobile technology, cloud storage, and app services such as Evernote – except when it comes to note taking.
Not that I haven’t tried. The problem is that I’m a terribly clumsy typist. Most of my focus tends to be on backspacing and as a result, I end up not hearing what is being said and my notes end up being incomplete and generally unhelpful. So when it comes to note taking, I’m still using pen and paper.
As it turns out, this weakness is actually a strength. New research shows that people who take notes using pen and paper have much better memory and comprehension of the material compared to people who type their notes. This is true even for people who are skilled enough to transcribe 100% of what is being said!
The reason, scientists believe, is that most people (except those from the deep south of course) talk faster than most of us can write by hand. That forces us to condense, synthesize, and group information as we go when taking notes. This results in the information forming a stronger memory and impression on the brain, leading to better recall and understanding.
Don’t worry techno-junkies, you don’t have to completely revert to being a Luddite to be able to take advantage of this simple memory and comprehension hack. There are a variety of digital pens, pads and other solutions to give you the comprehension and creative benefits while at the same time allowing you to digitally capture and tag your handwritten notes.
Next question for researchers: What are the mental benefits of spending hours trying to decipher your chicken-scratch notes that you wrote all those weeks ago?