Holy cow! Why you need to stop taking notes on your laptop.

Posted: Nov 12 2015

Ever wonder why some people remember so much more after taking notes than others, read on:

Study
by Oppenheimer and Muller (Princeton and UCLA psychology) concludes that taking notes on laptop kills your cognitive retention (remembering and recalling the facts).  Here's why?


note taking on paper vs. laptop

The Study: 

Subjects:  Room full of Princeton students (65 of them)
Task:  
1. Watch a TED talk
2. Take notes during TED talk using their preferred method (either laptop or pen/paper).  T
3. Do 30 minutes of unrelated 'distractor tasks'
4. Answer factual questions about the TED Talk.  Half fact based questions (i.e. "What's the population of China").  Half concept questions (i.e. "How do China and Italy differ on social policies?")

Results:

Fact based questions:  Equal correct scores between laptop note-takers and pen/paper note takers
Conceptual questions:  Pen/paper note takers performed statistically significantly better.


Why? In this study, the laptops were disconnected from the Internet so online distraction was minimized.  What was found was that the laptop note-takers took notes by transcribing what the TED Talk presenter was saying verbatim, rather than taking selective notes.

Chunking down:  Pen and paper note-taking and planning has a distinct limitation... speed.  Because it is slower to write than type; when you're writing you are discouraged from writing everything the instructor (or TED Talk) says, and instead you need to write selective notes.  These selective notes are chunked down into manageable parts, once chunked down, it's easier for your brain to make conceptual associations between these manageable parts.  

Your own words:  Using your own words in note taking and planning creates a stronger connection to the printed data because it's written in a venacular that resonates with you, rather than in the voice of the presenter.  Writing notes or planning using words that resonate with you encourages deeper processing and long-term retention of content.

So, stop typing on your laptop and start taking notes, it's one of the reasons we decided to include 32 notes pages in The Perfect Day planner that we produce.

 

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