Not so long ago, putting pen to paper was a fundamental feature of daily life. Journaling and diary-keeping were commonplace, and people exchanged handwritten letters with friends, loved ones, and business associates.
While longhand communication is more time-consuming and onerous, there’s evidence that people may in some cases lose out when they abandon handwriting for keyboard-generated text.
Psychologists have long understood that personal, emotion-focused writing can help people recognize and come to terms with their feelings. Since the 1980s, studies have found that “the writing cure,” which normally involves writing about one’s feelings every day for 15 to 30 minutes, can lead to measurable physical and mental health benefits. These benefits include everything from lower stress and fewer depression symptoms to improved immune function. And there’s evidence that handwriting may better facilitate this form of therapy than typing.
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“When we write a letter of the alphabet, we form it component stroke by component stroke, and that process of production involves pathways in the brain that go near or through parts that manage emotion,” says Virginia Berninger, a professor emerita of education at the University of Washington. Hitting a fully formed letter on a keyboard is a very different sort of task — one that doesn’t involve these same brain pathways. “It’s possible that there’s not the same connection to the emotional part of the brain” when people type, as opposed to writing in longhand, Berninger says.
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A 2017 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that brain regions associated with learning are more active when people completed a task by hand, as opposed to on a keyboard. The authors of that study say writing by hand may promote “deep encoding” of new information in ways that keyboard writing does not. And other researchers have argued that writing by hand promotes learning and cognitive development in ways keyboard writing can’t match.
Link to the rest at Medium
PG’s mother had him take a summer typing class when he was about eleven years old. (Yes, my child, this was at a time when dragons were still found on the earth and a keyboard was always permanently fixed to a typewriter.)
Later, in high school, he took another typing class (and massively aced it because of his original typing class). At the annual high school awards program, he received an award for being the fastest and most accurate typist in the school. (It was a very small school, but still.)
During his early years of college, PG charged an exorbitant price per page for typing papers for other students. His particular target market was procrastinators who hadn’t finished their papers until the evening of the day before they were due. PG would type papers at all hours of the night, for a price. (Yes, keyboards were still attached to typewriters.)
PG remembers the first time he saw a word processor, in a law office where he worked part-time during law school. It was used by the secretary for an estate planning attorney. PG learned two things – 1. Word processors could turn out perfectly-typed documents faster than anybody could type. 2. 99% of the contents of an estate plan created for Client A were the same as an estate plan for Client B, so a skilled secretary could modify 1% of the standard estate plan template in about ten minutes, then feed sheets of paper into the typewriter without worrying about mistakes. (The earliest word processors were essentially typewriters with some minimal memory hooked up inside. Sometimes, there was a dial next to the keyboard that allowed the secretary to select one of ten numbered documents that were stored in the word processor.
Not long thereafter, PG was working General Counsel for a very small tech company that also retained a large Los Angeles law firm for some matters. The law firm had a glassed-in portion of its office where its word processors and their operators sat. PG Again, these were dedicated machines that only did word processing, but they used separate monitors and keyboards. They still used impact printers, so it was very noisy in the room when multiple documents were being printed.
These dedicated word processors were quite expensive (PG remembers something like $40,000 each), so the law firm was anxious to have them in use as much as possible. The word processing room was staffed 24/7, so lawyers working late or very late could have documents created or updated at any time. PG had a couple of late-night projects and became familiar with the talents of the word processing workers. They were very fast and very accurate.
When PG opened his own law office, he sprang for a dedicated word processor for his desk and his secretary (Yes, my child, that was a common and perfectly respectable job title) used an IBM Selectric. A year or so later, PG bought a personal computer from the local Radio Shack store, moved the dedicated word processor to his secretary’s desk, and hasn’t looked back since.
That is a very long preface to a very short conclusion. PG believes that whatever areas of his brain that would otherwise be devoted to handwriting have been hijacked by keyboarding. He isn’t aware of any intermediary steps happening in his brain between his thinking of something and the words describing that something showing up on his computer screen. He doesn’t believe that handwriting holds a special place in his brain any more. Your experience may vary, but PG has typed so many more words than he has handwritten during his life, he thinks his handwriting brain has either gone completely dormant or been occupied by his typing brain.