Psych 101 was about to start, and Pam Mueller had forgotten her laptop at home. This meant more than lost Facebook time. A psychology grad student at Princeton, Mueller was one of the class teaching assistants. It was important she have good notes on the lecture. Normally she used her laptop to take notes, but, without it, she’d have to rely on a more traditional approach.
So she put pen to paper—and found something surprising.
Class just seemed better. “I felt like I had gotten so much more out of the lecture that day,” she said. So she shared the story with Daniel Oppenheimer, the professor teaching the class.
“‘I had a similar experience in a faculty meeting the other day,’” Mueller remembers him saying. “And we both sort of had that intuition that there might be something different about writing stuff down.”
It turns out there is.
A new study—conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer—finds that people remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones.
What’s more, knowing how and why typed notes can be bad doesn’t seem to improve their quality. Even if you warn laptop-notetakers ahead of time, it doesn’t make a difference. For some tasks, it seems, handwriting’s just better.
*Image of “schoolchildren” via Shutterstock