I read a very interesting article, Paper beats computer screens, which validated my decision to not get an e-reader a few years ago. Apparently, comprehension and assimilation of text on a screen is not as good as for text on paper.
Citing a Norwegian study of 10th graders as well as some supporting science out of the University of Alberta, the conclusion is that there is a tactile element to reading comprehension.
I love how “pure science” is starting to understand, and agree with, some of the basics of “non-rational” philosophies. In this case, we’re talking about the mind-body connection. Fact or fiction, it seems the mind gets more out of reading when there is a tactile element. Feeling paper, turning pages – not just swiping a screen, and flipping back and forth all seem to help the brain absorb the material.
I find it amusing, ironic* even, that I found this article on the internet, read it on my computer, and am sharing the information with you through the internet so that you can read it on your computer. In my defense, the scientists involved do say that their findings are more relevant to longer texts.
If we step back some, the idea that feeling more than just the screen of your e-reader helps understanding also suggests that we can get more out of anything when more senses are involved in the experience. If you doubt that, consider:
- How many people do you know who do not need to refer to their notes? The simple act of writing something down frequently provides the reinforcement necessary to remember what someone said. (And, if they don’t remember something, they won’t find it in their notes because they didn’t write that part down.)
- What about all those people who seem to be able to remember something because that got up and started moving around? It’s like they really did have to jostle their brain around to find the desired information.
- And, I know a slew of technical-types who cannot properly convey a point if they cannot draw a picture.
For some reason, the brain works better when the body is involved. I suspect it goes back to having to hunt for your dinner and running away from something that wants you for dinner.
So, what does this have to do with writing? Not much. However, the more we understand how people learn, the better we can be at clear communication. And we all know how much I love that.
By the way, I didn’t buy an e-reader because I was broke and had more than enough paper books on my shelves.
* If you want to know about my issues around irony, check out my blog Words the Bug Me: Irony.
– Lorrie Nicoles