Is the pen mightier than typing? Quite so!

Emily Rose Gottlieb Vicky Johnson | Lariat

Handwriting, especially cursive has been left out of the curriculum in many schools, replaced by typing, such as a computer. Typing is a one step process by punching a key, while writing involves various movements of the hand.


“Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought,” Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva, told The Guardian. “Children take several years to master this precise motor exercise.”


The body has a memory and when writing a letter of the alphabet triggers hooks to hang your memory. What is the cognitive difference between handwriting versus typing?


According to the studies, a large body of data supports movement playing an important part of visual recognition of letters. There are psycho neurological mechanisms involved in practicing and then acquiring this skill of writing. Handwriting activates neural pathways associated with reading and the formation of these brain networks.


The brain is more sensorimotor active with writing.  Therefore, there is more sensory experience boosting brain activity and motor skills.


“The areas of the brain that are active while writing with a pen and the areas involved while typing are quite different,” Dr. Arvin’s Bhateja, a neurosurgeon, told Times of India. “And the less we use certain areas of the brain, the less active they become.”


Visual perception is enhanced with writing which contributes to reading fluency. Handwriting is associated with intelligence.


According to graphologists, the size of someone’s handwriting can determine the type of personality they have. Those who write small tend to be shy, meticulous and studious. While a larger print tends towards a more outgoing and attention seeking personality. A negative mood creates a cognitive burden on the mind, which influences handwriting.  


Handwriting is also influenced by a person’s autonomy. Genetics has a role in the shaping of letters. Handwriting is an acquired characteristic and parental pre-teaching skills to children is important.


When writing as a young person, it develops a stronger conceptual understanding rather than by typing on a computer. Writing is being eclipsed increasingly by the ease of typing.


“You open up the brain for learning and remembering things better,” professor Audrey Van Der Meer of Norwegian University told WGN9. “So the physical movements of producing letters on paper make your brain in a kind of state that makes it much easier to remember what you’ve been hearing.”


The benefits, we know from handwriting, are left into the ethers and students rely on typing. Research says that handwriting practice demonstrates better conceptual understanding and memory of the material students took as notes.


Dexterity, improved recall and memory influences self confidence. People suffering from disabilities, like ADD and dyslexia, find improvement from handwriting and activates the brain by increasing neural activity.  


There are five distinct benefits from handwriting: 

  1. Activates the brain
  2. Improves writing
  3. Memory
  4. Boosts creativity
  5. Reinforces literacy


Der Meer writes using EEG monitoring to study how brain activity showed writing by hand primed students for learning. The use of pen and paper gives the brain more “hooks” to hand memory.


Studies have found the brain engages differently with handwriting instead of typing. There is something uniquely physical by putting the hand to paper and pen. Thoughts need to breathe.


Murdoch University’s Dr. Anabela Malpique urged parents to pivot away from phones to old school pencils and paper to boost memory, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.


“Research is telling us in the primary years that kids need to have more time allocated to developing handwriting skills than typing,” she told the Daily Telegraph. “Especially in the first three years of schooling to develop their hand and eye coordination.”


Consultant psychiatrist Dr. Anand Jayaraman also encourages pen and paper over computers, since it involves mind and body coordination.


“Writing involves several processes,” she told Times of India. “ One to think, gather thoughts and write, and they get to review their thoughts again at the end of it.”


The process of writing is so critical that experts describe it as mind writing.


“The process of writing starts from the mind and then it takes the support of your bones and muscles for the final outcome,” Dr. Rafiulfah Baig, handwriting memory expert, told Times of India. “In fact, the origin of writing is the mind and when people write letters and notes, they invest their emotions on paper. Hence, we don’t even call it handwriting, but mind writing.”


Character apps are being implemented into computers to assist those who prefer typing papers out, but it appears to be at a cost. The long lost letter writing seems to have almost disappeared and how lovely it was to receive a handwritten letter in the mail. Progress moves forward and with it the emotions put on paper with a pen tells it own past historical, misplaced and woke story.