Put Away That Laptop and Pick Up a Pencil or Pen

While laptops are growing ever-present in business meetings as a way to take notes, a recent study about students taking notes in college classes reveals that using old-fashioned pen and paper leads to better learning and recall. 

pencil pen

“When people type their notes, they have this tendency to try to take verbatim notes and write down as much of the lecture as they can,” says Pam A. Mueller, a psychology researcher at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, in an interview with National Public Radio. “The students who were taking longhand notes in our studies were forced to be more selective because you can’t write as fast as you can type. And that extra processing of the material that they were doing benefited them.”

The study, published in Psychological Science with Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, found that when comparing groups who typed notes with those who hand wrote notes, both did well when it came to retaining factual information. However, when they were asked more “big idea” questions, the typers fared worse.

Tom Popomaronis, a columnist for Inc.com, cited the study when he wrote that taking notes by hand is good for business. “Because you’re not locked into absorbing facts and ideas in a word-for-word way, you might be able to communicate them differently, according to your audience, or think about them more independently, for higher innovation,” he says in his Sept. 22 column. “It’s a solid reminder that, even in the age of big data, more isn’t always better.”

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