Handwritten notes help us remember things better than taking notes on the laptop, a new study finds.
There are many ways to enhance retention of information. Adding to this already long list, Princeton University found that writing down notes helps in retaining information better than taking down notes on a laptop or any other device.
Researchers of the study conducted a series of experiments to investigate whether their intuitions about laptop and longhand note-taking were true.
In one experiment, 65 students were made to watch one of five TED Talks that were based on topics that were not common knowledge but interesting. Students were then provided with laptops and notebooks and told to use whichever one they wanted to take down notes. After the lecture was over, the students participated in three distracting tasks for 30 minutes. Following the tasks, the students were asked to answer factual-recall questions based on the lecture they had just watched.
Researchers found that while all students preformed equally when it came to recalling factual information, laptop note-takers performed worse than the students who took down notes in their notebooks when it came to answering conceptual questions.
Researchers also noticed that laptop notes were more verbatim and had more words than hand-written notes. It was also seen that the students who took down more notes and those whose notes were not verbatim performed better.
"It may be that longhand note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently," the researchers said in a press statement.
The urge to avoid taking verbatim notes is difficult while typing. This could be another reason why information retention is more difficult while using a laptop. A follow-up study conducted one week later found that longhand note takers continued to outperform laptop note-takers, even seven days later.
"I don't anticipate that we'll get a mass of people switching back to notebooks but there are several new stylus technologies out there, and those may be the way to go to have an electronic record of one's notes, while also having the benefit of being forced to process information as it comes in, rather than mindlessly transcribing it," psychological scientist Pam Mueller of Princeton University, lead author of the study said in a statement. "Ultimately, the take-home message is that people should be more aware of how they are choosing to take notes, both in terms of the medium and the strategy," Mueller concludes.
The use of laptops in classrooms has been surrounded by a lot of controversies. Educational experts find that these devices are a major distraction to students who use them for online shopping, playing games or even using social networking sites in the classroom. However, others are of the opinion that it can serve as a useful tool to students as it gives them instant access to more information on what is being taught in class.
The current study was published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.