Using our keyboards saves us lots of precious time, but writing by hand has lots of benefits.
Researchers have shown that children who know how to write by hand learn to read faster. They are also better at retaining information and coming up with new ideas.
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated. There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain,” Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris, told The New York Times.
A study conducted at Indiana University, in the US, reported that when children write by hand three areas of the brain are activated—the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex. These are the same areas that are set in motion when adults read and write. Kids who typed or just traced letters didn’t show any activation in these areas.
Karin James, who was involved in the study, told The New York Times that the messiness inherent in free-form handwriting was behind this. After all, when we write by hand we have to plan and execute an action that has to deliver a concrete result in the form of a letter or a word.
“This is one of the first demonstrations of the brain being changed because of the practice,” explained James.
Other studies comparing the performance between children writing a composition by hand or typing it have shown that kids who wrote by hand produced more words and original ideas than those who used the keyboard.
Not surprisingly the researchers also found that children with better handwriting also had greater neural activation in the working memory.
And if you think that the benefits are just for kids, you’re mistaken.
Taking notes by hand can help you learn faster and better—you should try it next time you have an exam or need to deliver a presentation. Studies suggest this is due to the fact that one needs to process and reframe all the information before writing it down. “We don’t write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim,” Pam Mueller, teaching assistant at Princeton University, in the US, told The Atlantic.
After reading this we'll try to write by hand more often, what about you?