Why the brain prefers paper (reading)

How does the brain interpret written language
letters and words are symbols representing sounds and ideas but the brain also regards them as physical objects
How does the brain learn to read
in childhood, the brain improvises a new circuit for reading by weaving together many ribbons of neural tissue devoted to other abilities (such as speaking, motor coordination and vision)
Purpose of brain regions with reading
specialize in object recognition – they help us quickly distinguish an apple from an orange based on their distinct features but also classify both as fruit
purpose of brain regions with reading tied to learning to read and write
begin to recognize letters by their particular arrangements of lines, curves, and hollow spaces (which is a learning process that requires both eyes and hands
Reminder: when reading cursive writing or other language, the brain goes through the motions of writing, even if the hands are empty
How else does the brain use words to become physical objects when reading
when we read, we construct a mental representation of the text (ex. when trying to locate a particular passage in a book, often remember where in the text it appeared or passing a red farmhouse before getting to the desired destination)
Features of reading a paper book
presents a reader with a left- and right-hand pages and 8 corners; can focus on a single page without losing awareness of the whole text; can feel the thickness of the pages you have read in one hand and the pages you have yet to read in the other; turning the pages is like leaving one footprint after another on a trail
Importance of the features of a paper book
these features make the text in a paper book easily navigable and make it easier to form a logical mental map of the text
Why do researchers think students perform worse when reading from online text
most likely because they had to scroll or click through the PDFs one section at a time; this affects their attention and working memory
How is reading from a screen physically tiring
books reflect ambient light but screens shine light directly on people’s faces; a screen’s LCD is gentler on eyes than cathode-ray tube (CRT) screens but long reading on self-lit screens can cause eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision
Reminder: researchers believe that scrolling (which requires readers to consciously focus on both the text and how they are moving it) drains more mental resources than turning or clicking a page (=more automatic gestures)
Why do people who read from screens bring less mental effort before even reading
they spend more time browsing, scanning and hunting for keywords and are more likely to read a document once and only once
Reminder: when reading on screens, people seem less inclined to engage in metacognitive learning regulation
Metacognitive Learning Regulation
example: setting specific goals, rereading difficult sections, and checking how much one has understood along the way
Distinguishing between remembering something and knowing something

remembering – a relatively weak form of memory where someone recalls a piece of information and contextual details (ex. where and when one learned it)

knowing – a stronger form of memory defined as certainty that something is true

Conclusions when marking if students remembered or knew the information
Students who had read study material on a screen relied much more on remembering than on knowing, whereas students who read on paper depended equally on the two forms of memory.
When reading to children
parents helpfully related stories to their child’s life when reading paper books, but when reading on electric books with sound effects, parents had to interrupt the reading to stop the child from fiddling with buttons and losing track of the story. These distractions probably prevented the child from understanding even the gist of the stories
Positives of reading from a screen
searching the web with keywords is easy to find many documents when researching; people with poor vision that can adjust the font size and the LCD helps their vision
Sensory means of reading from paper
the feel of paper and ink; the option to smooth or fold a page with one’s fingers; the distinctive sound a page makes when turned
Why do people understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen
screens may hurt comprehension by preventing people from naturally navigating and mentally mapping long texts; screens are more cognitively and physically demanding (scrolling, headaches, and straining eyes); too distracting with all you can do on a screen
What is paper’s greatest strength
it’s simplicity
Main question
how exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read?
Conclusions from studies before 1992
people read from screens more slowly and remember less about them
Conclusions on recent surveys
many still prefer paper to concentrate for a long time, but attitudes are changing as technology is improving and reading for facts and fun becomes more common
Reminder: people often approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less performed to learn than with reading on paper

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