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How reading paper and e-books affects our memory and productivity
How reading paper and e-books affects our memory and productivity

Research shows that reading printed texts instead of electronic ones can help you remember information better.

How reading paper and e-books affects our memory and productivity
How reading paper and e-books affects our memory and productivity

Why is it better to read paper books

Despite all the advantages of digital sources of information, over the past few years, there has been growing evidence that our brains prefer analogue media.

According to a study by psychologists at Princeton University and UCLA, it's much easier to remember something important by handwriting it. According to psychotherapist and journalism expert Maud Purcell, this may be because writing stimulates an area of the brain known as the reticular activating system, which filters and brings clarity to the bulk of information we focus on.

It turned out that the absorption of information from paper promotes better retention in memory and increased productivity. Anne Mangen, a professor at the Norwegian University of Stavanger's Reading Center, conducted a study in which she gave participants the same 28-page detective story - some on paper and some on an Amazon Kindle reader. After that, they were asked a number of questions about the text.

Those who read the paper story gave more correct answers to questions related to time and chronology than those who read with the Kindle. And when participants were asked to put the 14 events in the correct order, those who read the paper book scored the best.

Anna Mangen

Scientists have yet to fully analyze this study. But Mangen associates the benefits of reading paper books with a deficit of metacognition. According to the professor, metacognition is how consciously we relate to information. “For example, how much time during the reading process do you spend trying to understand the text well enough and then solve the problem associated with it,” says Mangen.

Participants in another study believed they were better able to comprehend information when they read from screens of electronic devices. Because of this, they swallowed text much faster than those who read from paper, and believed that they would perform better in a text-based quiz. As a result, fans of the traditional format not only benefited in terms of understanding of the text, but also better predicted their results.

No need to read everything from paper

With books, the situation is clear, but does the brain absorb information as well when reading newspapers, magazines, and other physical media? Not at all necessary.

“Length really seems to be the main problem, and a number of other parameters of text, such as structure and layout, are closely related to it. Is the content presented in such a way that you are required to keep several events or parts of text in your head at the same time? - continues Mangen. In other words, the complexity and density of information can influence the importance of the source of the text.

“It may be that for certain types of text or literary genres (for example, overly fascinating books), the source is almost irrelevant, while in the case of other genres (for example, cognitively and emotionally complex novels) the source may matter. to understand and understand the book, explains Mangen. "But this has yet to be tested empirically."

There is no need to reach for the print button when receiving the next letter, unless the length is comparable to a novel. Reading short messages from the screen can hardly impede understanding and memorization.

Print and digital information can coexist peacefully

Printed information is not always as good for understanding and remembering as digital information. It is helpful to remember that all media and technologies have their own user interfaces. The user interface of paper in some cases can better influence the memorization and assimilation of complex information than electronic devices.

But in other cases, such as when showing presentations with audiovisual materials, a device like a tablet will be more useful. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It all depends on a number of factors related to the content, the reader, the purpose of the reading, or the situation.

Take your time when reading e-books

If you cannot give up e-books, then this does not mean that all is lost for you. You probably think that you are absorbing information faster than you actually do, so you read books faster.

The simple solution is to slow down and pay more attention to parsing the material. This will help you to perceive the information as well as when reading from paper.