I’ve written about these kinds of studies before, but here’s the latest one. Norwegian 10th graders were shown to retain information better when they read it on paper than when they read it on a computer.
The results clearly demonstrated that those who had read on computer screens had understood less than those who read on paper. Perhaps surprisingly, this disparity was encountered with both the fiction and the factual prose.
Why would this be? Mangen and her co-authors discuss various possible causes in an article in the International Journal of Educational Research as well as in an article in the Norwegian journal Norsk pedagogisk tidsskrift.
An obvious difference between PC screens and paper is that paper is material. You can feel the weight, texture and thickness of a pamphlet or a book. You can see where it begins and ends. You can quickly leaf through the pages with your fingers.
Ah those old interactive books! Researchers think the tangible nature of paper connects to more senses and enables more retention.
I’ve also read studies which suggest that out brains simply interact differently with stable print than with flickering letters on a screen.
What does it all mean? I would offer a theory except I forgot what I just read.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.