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Digital or Paper: Which Leads to Better Reading Comprehension?

According to a new study by Anne Mangen and her colleagues at the Reading Centre of the University of Stavanger in Norway, reading text on paper leads to better reading comprehension than reading on a computer screen.

The Methodology (emphasis added):

They randomly divided 72 of their 10th grade teens into two groups. Both were given two texts, a fiction piece and a factual piece.

One group was asked to read the two texts as PDF files on standard computer screens, the other read the texts on paper. The pupils’ individual reading skills and vocabularies had been charted beforehand, to make allowances for these variations.

The teens were then asked to answer questions that would show how well they had comprehended the text.

 

The Results:

The results clearly demonstrated that those who had read on computer screens had understood less than those who read on paper….

Mind and body are interlinked….

[Mangen] thinks educators shouldn’t decide to get rid of paper based on a blind faith in digital technology. Read the full text here.

 

  • It would be interesting to see this study replicated with an e-ink screen and a PDF/shiny screen. Or even an ebook on a backlit screen. I seem to find my reading comprehension is better with e-ink than on a computer screen. I hate backlit screens.
  • Mind and body are obviously interlinked. It stands to reason that the spatial component of physical books helps create a map of the book, thus aiding recall. All that gobbledy-goo about just loving the feel and smell of paper is nostalgic hooey. Spatial reasoning and recall are real reasons why paper might produce a more thorough reading experience.
  • And a big duh-huh on the last result: no one should ever put “blind faith” in anything.

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