Gone are the days where you have to head down to your local library or bookstore to find a new read or check an encyclopedia for facts. With the age of the internet, information is now available at our fingertips.
With a change in mediums available to us, this has also changed our reading habits and how we approach looking at words on screen vs on paper.
Many studies have been conducted to find out which of the two woks better for us; according to Scientific American magazine, at least 100 studies have been conducted on this since the 1980s.
Initial research showed people read slowly and less accurately on screen — potentially as it was a fairly new medium. However, more current studies showed more mixed results.
So, how exactly does these two mediums of reading affect the way we process information?
Many studies have shown that when it comes to long, information dense and factual texts, readers tend to do better at processing the information when it is on paper. These texts usually need a certain amount of concentration — referred to as ‘Deep Reading’.
This is likely due to being able to have a better overview when reading on a paper. Reading on screen could mean seeing smaller sections of the text or having to deal with awkward formatting of paragraphs.
Note taking also tends to be easier on paper as you can easily write in the margins.
However, a large part of how we interact with both mediums is also based on preference.
A number of studies have found that individuals often perceive paper materials as more important and serious. Hence, they are more likely to give it more attention and concentration.
But, if someone like to read on screens, their ability to pay attention and give concentration are less likely to decrease.
A study by Virginia Clinton, also noted that individuals reading from a screen tend to over-estimate their comprehension of a text. Those reading on paper were more accurate in judging how much of the text they managed to comprehend.
This is important as those overestimating their ability might out in less effort towards fully understanding a piece of text.
Digital or Paper?
However, this doesn’t mean we totally give up on the digital — as that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Plus, digital brings a host of benefits like accessibility, cost effectiveness and ability to refine your search for information.