Why We Can't Give Up Paper and Pens Yet

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Email was originally super exciting for businesses because it would be a money-saver: No more printing out documents! Think of how much paper you'd save. While email may have been a starting point and not a destination, our abiding love of apps and screens to help us organize our lives has only accelerated. There could be a better way, though.


Stationery nerds, rejoice: Neuroscientists in Japan have just published a study showing conclusive benefits to using a pen and paper to take notes, rather than a smartphone or a tablet. If you're looking for efficiency, note-takers were 25 percent faster when writing by hand, and if you're looking for effectiveness, those who wrote on paper demonstrated more accurate and faster recall of the material they recorded.

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Part of that comes down to how we relate to information within physical space. "Digital tools have uniform scrolling up and down and standardized arrangement of text and picture size, like on a webpage," said corresponding author Kuniyoshi Sakai. "But if you remember a physical textbook printed on paper, you can close your eyes and visualize the photo one-third of the way down on the left-side page, as well as the notes you added in the bottom margin."


In other words, there's something abstract about using screens to read and write that hasn't fully caught up with our monkey brains. If you're looking to learn, memorize, or plan something, it might serve you well to treat yourself and buy yourself that great notebook you've been eyeing.