The Power of Touch

Sappi North America, provider of fine papers for printing invested deeply to investigate the power of ink on paper and found…

WHAT WE TOUCH SHAPES WHAT WE FEEL.

TOUCH CAN ALSO SHAPE WHAT WE KNOW

Neuroscientists, psychologists, and other researchers have looked at how people interact with paper, comparing it to their interactions with other media in more than 100 published studies since the early ’90s. These studies dominantly show that people read best on paper for three reasons:

  • it makes content more intuitively navigable;
  • it facilitates better mental “mapping” of information;
  • and reading on paper drains fewer of our cognitive resources, making retention a little easier.

All of this is because paper is a physical, tangible medium. ¶

When you consider memory and comprehension, paper looks even better: studies show that when we read on paper we process information differently, sustaining a deeper level of interest.

Online reading is often purposeful and utilitarian, a kind of information foraging.

But paper directs attention and working memory much differently, with a resulting increase in what neuroscientists identify as knowledge rather than recall. ¶

Even “digital natives” are more likely to remember something longer when they read it on paper.  When touch is part of an experience, it helps shift the brain into the deep level of engagement most conducive to building knowledge.

“PEOPLE UNDERSTAND AND REMEMBER WHAT THEY READ ON PAPER BETTER THAN WHAT THEY READ ON SCREEN. RESEARCHERS THINK THE PHYSICALITY OF PAPER EXPLAINS THIS DISCREPANCY.” —FERRIS JABR “WHY THE BRAIN PREFERS PAPER” SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

The Eagleman Lab took this one step further and tested the effects of paper quality, finding that people who read about a company on heavy, high-quality coated paper understood and remembered the content significantly better than those who read on either lighter, lower quality uncoated paper or on a computer screen. What’s more, they had more positive feelings about the company

Excerpted from A COMMUNICATOR’S GUIDE TO THE NEURO SCIENCE TOUCH

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