Paper Learning: Why it is Better

Is the Pen Mightier than the Keyboard?

Distractions are the enemy of productivity, especially when trying to study important content that you need to pass tests or perform advanced tasks. Many schools are banning digital devices and returning to traditional pen on paper and textbooks—citing better student learning and social outcomes. There are many advantages to putting the screen aside and embracing handwritten and printed notes:

1) Increased Performance

Most people understand printed and written text better, and retain more information. Print readers also score higher in other areas (empathy, book immersion, and narrative understanding). One of the most effective ways to study and retain new information is to rewrite your notes by hand. That’s because putting pen to paper stimulates kinesthetic feedback and the brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS). All people learn better when they perform physical actions with learning and have higher brain engagement. Reading and writing on paper make you smarter.

2) Less Distraction = Greater Focus

Digital readers tend to spend more time scanning for keywords than actually processing what they’re reading. With a print book, there’s no chance of getting distracted by links or losing hours on the internet. Study more efficiently with better focus and always remember, “distractions are the enemy of productivity.”

3) Improved Health

  1. Mental Health – Excessive use of digital devices in youth has been correlated with addiction, increased depression, higher chronic stress, attention deficit issues, delayed language development, irritability, delayed physical skill development and even obesity. FOMO (fear of missing out) often results in compulsively checking social media. A study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology concludes that there is a causal link between social media use and negative effects on well-being, primarily depression and loneliness.
  2. Setting the stage for sleep – reading from a screen or scrolling through social media on your phone are bad ideas. Even having a phone near your bed when you sleep is distracting. Study after study has shown that the blue light from your screen can alter your melatonin levels and circadian cycles, making it harder for you to fall asleep and making you feel less rested when you wake up. Better sleep = better health.
  3. Lower Eyestrain – Many jobs require staring at a computer screen all day, so it’s wise to give your eyes a break whenever you can. A study of 429 university students revealed that nearly half had complained of strained eyes after reading digitally. Electronic books can cause screen fatigue, which may lead to blurred vision, redness, dryness, and irritation.
  4. Slows Brain Aging – Writing by hand is a workout for your brain. Many physicians claim that the act of writing — which engages your motor skills, memory, and more — is a good cognitive exercise for people who want to keep their minds sharp as they age.

Higher Achievement

Did you know that a home library is associated with higher academic achievement and income? According to a study of 200,000+ readers from over 40 countries, students who have books at home are more likely to score higher on tests. It doesn’t matter how many books you have, but each additional book helps young people perform better in school. Researchers believe this is because having books at home encourages them to read for fun and talk about what they’ve learned, which only stands to benefit them in the classroom and later in life.

Boost Creativity

Writing by hand influences cognitive processes to slow you down and forge creativity and new ideas. One study even suggests writing by hand is more strongly linked to emotion processing compared to typing or swiping at a screen. One study found doodles made when note-taking and in periods of studying result in 29% more information retention. If you still want some digital options, consider a smartpen that allows you to write the text in a natural way. Smartpens stores the written contents as it is transferred to display devices.

Part of the Environment

Paper and pen, like a tree or a doorway, are recognized by your brain as part of the physical environment. Real physical structures are hard-wired to be recognized by your brain as a matter of survival and automatically make it easier for you to retain information and focus more easily.

An Environmental Choice

Paper has high recyclability, carbon storage, and a renewable primary raw material (wood, recycled and alternative fibres). Many phones and their components  (batteries, cases etc.)  require significant and environmentally damaging resources in their creation, and are often difficult at their end of use recycling.


It is important to remember, different learning strategies work better for different people! Online learning may work best for you and that is okay! No matter the method, we have the best tools to help support your studies. 

Check out all the educational tools and in-person seminars available to get the results you’re after!


Ferris Jabr. Why the Brain Prefers Paper. Scientific American 309(5):48-53 · November 2013 DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican1113-48
Deidra Gammill, Ph.D. The Benefits of Using Doodling and Sketch notes in the Classroom. Education Week Teacher. January 6, 2016.
Melissa G. Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson, and Jordyn Young. No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 2018 37, 10, 751-768
Wollscheid, Et al. The Impact of Digital Devices vs. Pen(cil) and Paper on Primary School Students’ Writing Skills – a Research Review. Computers & Education 95 · December 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2015.12.001
Evans. Et al. Scholarly Culture and Academic Performance in 42 Nations. Social Forces 92(4):1573-1605 · May 2014.
Ellie Bithwell. Pen and paper ‘beats computers for retaining knowledge’. World University Rankings 2017.
Garrison, M. M., Liekweg, K., Christakis, D. A. (2011). Media use and child sleep: the impact of content, timing, and environment. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics,
s.2010-3304.full.pdf+htmlSinger Et al. Reading on Paper and Digitally: What the Past Decades of Empirical Research Reveal. University of Maryland. Volume: 87 issue: 6, page(s): 1007-1041
Lauren M. Singer & Patricia A. Alexander. Reading Across Mediums: Effects of Reading Digital and Print Texts on Comprehension and Calibration, The Journal of Experimental Education, 85:1, 155-172, DOI: 10.1080/00220973.2016.1143794
Vincent, Jane (2016) Students’ use of paper and pen versus digital media in university environments for writing and reading – a cross-cultural exploration. Journal of Print Media and Media Technology Research, 5 (2). pp. 97-106. ISSN 2223-8905
Bakic, J., Jepma, M., De Raedt, R., and Pourtois, G. (2014). Effects of positive mood on probabilistic learning: behavioural and electrophysiological correlates. Biol. Psychol. 103, 223–232. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.09.012
Borghini, G., Vecchiato, G., Toppi, J., Astolfi, L., Maglione, A., Isabella, R., et al. (2012). Assessment of mental fatigue during car driving by using high-resolution EEG activity and neurophysiologic indices. Proc. Annu. Int. Conf. IEEE Eng. Med. Biol. Soc. 70, 6442–6445. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2012.6347469
Chwilla, D. J., Virgillito, D., and Vissers, C. T. W. M. (2011). The relationship of language and emotion: N400 support for an embodied view of language comprehension. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 23, 2400–2414. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21578
Deacon, D., Dynowska, A., Ritter, W., and Grose-Fifer, J. (2004). Repetition and semantic priming of nonwords: implications for theories of N400 and word recognition. Psychophysiology 41, 60–74. doi: 10.1111/1469-8986.00120
Federmeier, K. D., Kirson, D. A., Moreno, E. M., and Kutas, M. (2001). Effects of transient, mild mood states on semantic memory organization and use: an event-related potential investigation in humans. Neurosci. Lett. 305, 149–152. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3940(01)01843-2
Friedrich, M., and Friederici, A. D. (2004). N400-like semantic incongruity effect in 19-month-olds: processing known words in picture contexts. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 16, 1465–1477. doi: 10.1162/0898929042304705
Friedrich, M., and Friederici, A. D. (2010). Maturing brain mechanisms and developing behavioral language skills. Brain Lang. 114, 66–71. doi: 10.1016/j.bandl.2009.07.004
Gerth, S., Dolk, T., Klassert, A., Fliesser, M., Fischer, M. H., Nottbusch, G., et al. (2016a). Adapting to the surface: a comparison of handwriting measures when writing on a tablet computer and on paper. Hum. Mov. Sci. 48, 62–73. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2016.04.006
Gerth, S., Klassert, A., Dolk, T., Fliesser, M., Fischer, M. H., Nottbusch, G., et al. (2016b). Is handwriting performance affected by the writing surface? Comparing preschoolers’, second graders’, and adults’ writing performance on a tablet vs. paper. Front. Psychol. 7:1308. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01308
Gevins, A., Smith, M. E., McEvoy, L., and Yu, D. (1997). High-resolution EEG mapping of cortical activation related to working memory: effects of task difficulty, type of processing, and practice. Cereb. Cortex 7, 374–385. doi: 10.1093/cercor/7.4.374
Guilbert, J., Alamargot, D., and Morin, M. F. (2019). Handwriting on a tablet screen: role of visual and proprioceptive feedback in the control of movement by children and adults. Hum. Mov. Sci. 65, 30–41. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2018.09.001
Hatano, A., Sekine, T., Herai, T., Ihara, N., Tanaka, Y., Murakami, S., et al. (2015). Effects of the use of paper notebooks and tablet devices on cognitive load in learning-An Electroencephalographic (EEG) study. IEICE Technic. Rep. 115, 39–44.
Holcomb, P. J. (1993). Semantic priming and stimulus degradation: implications for the role of the N400 in language processing. Psychophysiology 30, 47–61. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1993.tb03204.x
Kiefer, M., Schuler, S., Mayer, C., Trumpp, N. M., Hille, K., and Sachse, S. (2015). Handwriting or typewriting? The influence of pen-or keyboard-based writing training on reading and writing performance in preschool children. Adv. Cogn. Psychol. 11, 136–146. doi: 10.5709/acp-0178-7
Kutas, M., and Federmeier, K. D. (2000). Electrophysiology reveals semantic memory use in language comprehension. Trends Cogn. Sci. 4, 463–470. doi: 10.1016/s1364-6613(00)01560-6
Kutas, M., and Federmeier, K. D. (2011). Thirty years and counting: finding meaning in the N400 component of the event-related brain potential (ERP). Annu. Rev. Psychol. 62, 621–647. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.131123
Longcamp, M., Gilhodes, J., Anton, J., Roth, M., Nazarian, B., and Velay, J. (2008). Learning through hand-or typewriting influences visual recognition of new graphic shapes: behavioural and functional imaging evidence. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 20, 802–815. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2008.20504
Longcamp, M., Zerbato-Poudou, M. T., and Velay, J. L. (2005). The influence of writing practice on letter recognition in preschool children: a comparison between handwriting and typing. Acta Psychol. 119, 67–79. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2004.10.019
Mangen, A., Anda, L. G., Oxborough, G. H., and Brønnick, K. (2015). Handwriting versus keyboard writing: effect on word recall. J. Writ. Res. 7, 227–247. doi: 10.17239/jowr-2015.07.02.1
Matsumoto, A., Iidaka, T., Haneda, K., Okada, T., and Sadato, N. (2005). Linking semantic priming effect in functional MRI and event-related potentials. Neuroimage 24, 624–634. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.09.008
McLaughlin, J., Osterhout, L., and Kim, A. (2004). Neural correlates of second-language word learning: minimal instruction produces rapid change. Nat. Neurosci. 7, 703–704. doi: 10.1038/nn1264
Mueller, P. A., and Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: advantages of longhand over laptop note-taking. Psychol. Sci. 25, 1159–1168. doi: 10.1177/0956797614524581
Nadler, R. T., Rabi, R., and Minda, J. P. (2010). Better mood and better performance. Learning rule-described categories is enhanced by positive mood. Psychol. Sci. 21, 1770–1776. doi:
Ojima, S., Nakamura, N., Matsuba-Kurita, H., Hoshino, T., and Hagiwara, H. (2011). Neural correlates of foreign-language learning in childhood: a 3-year longitudinal ERP study. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 23, 183–199. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2010.21425
Ojima, S., Nakata, H., and Kakigi, R. (2005). An ERP study of second language learning after childhood: effects of proficiency. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 17, 1212–1228. doi: 10.1162/0898929055002436
Reid, V. M., Hoehl, S., Grigutsch, M., Groendahl, A., Parise, E., and Striano, T. (2009). The neural correlates of infant and adult goal prediction: evidence for semantic processing systems. Dev. Psychol. 45, 620–629. doi: 10.1037/a0015209
Rugg, M. D. (1985). The effects of semantic priming and word repetition on event-related potentials. Psychophysiology 22, 642–647. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.1985.tb01661.x
Sakuma, N., Ijuin, M., Fushimi, T., Tatsumi, I., Tanaka, M., Amano, S., et al. (2005). Nihongo-No Goitokusei: Lexical Properties of Japanese (Vol.8). Tokyo: Sanseido-shoten Co. Ltd.
van der Meer, A. L. H., and van der Weel, F. R. (2017). Only three fingers write, but the whole brain works: a high-density EEG study showing advantages of drawing over typing for learning. Front. Psychol. 8:706. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00706
van Petten, C., Kutas, M., Kluender, R., Mitchiner, M., and Mcisaac, H. (1991). Fractionating the word repetition effect with event-related potentials. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 3, 131–150. doi: 10.1162/jocn.1991.3.2.131
Vinci-booher, S., James, T. W., and Karin, H. (2016). Visual-motor functional connectivity in preschool children emerges after handwriting experience. Trends Neurosci. Educ. 5, 107–120. doi: 10.1016/j.tine.2016.07.006
Vissers, C. T. W. M., Chwilla, U. G., Egger, J. I. M., and Chwilla, D. J. (2013). The interplay between mood and language comprehension: evidence from P600 to semantic reversal anomalies. Neuropsychologia 51, 1027–1039. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.02.007
Vissers, C. T. W. M., Virgillito, D., Fitzgerald, D. A., Speckens, A. E. M., Tendolkar, I., van Oostrom, I., et al. (2010). The influence of mood on the processing of syntactic anomalies: evidence from P600. Neuropsychologia 48, 3521–3531. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.08.001
Wollscheid, S., Sjaastad, J., and Tømte, C. (2016). The impact of digital devices vs. Pen(cil) and paper on primary school students’ writing skills—a research review. Comput. Educ. 95, 19–35. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2015.12.001

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Share this Post...