Handwritten Notes Trump Computer Note-Taking for Retaining Information

Document created by 1002070 on Oct 12, 2015
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Pat Rountree.jpgHarvard Business Review recently cited studies comparing the retention and recall of information presented at meetings or conferences when participants take notes on their laptops versus taking handwritten notes.  Those who took handwritten notes were better able to recall the information when tested later; they also had better comprehension of the material.  Results of studies conducted by psychologists Mueller and Oppenheimer with students at UCLA and Princeton showed that notes taken on the computer tend to be more verbatim, where handwritten notes focus on the concepts that are being taught.


The psychologists attribute the difference in retention and learning to cognitive processes involved when handwriting notes vs. taking notes on the computer.  Laptop notetaking by participants appeared to be more of a mindless activity where they were just writing what was said rather than listening, comprehending and learning.  Some respondents to the study results noted that since they could not write as fast as they could type notes on the computer, they were listening and then summarizing their understanding of what was presented when writing.  In the study, a week later when subjects were tested on the subject matter, handwritten note-takers fared much better on recall.


The psychologists took their research a step further by asking subjects to make summaries of presentations on their laptops rather than trying to write everything they heard.  Their retention, recall and understanding still fell below that of subjects who took handwritten notes.


The research suggests that while laptops are good for recording appointments on the calendar and making to do lists in meetings, when there are important concepts that you need to recall, paper and pen may still be the best for recording important information that will trigger cognitive processing for retention and recall later.







Harvard Business Review, July 2015

Study, Mueller & Oppenheimer

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