The Stupid Keyboard Effect: Each Day You Type Your Brain Degrades a Little


Do you write cursively with beautifully flowing,
looped letters or do you print? Actually, a more pressing question would be:
Do you write at all? Can you remember the last time you put pen
to paper, instead of finger to keyboard? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The statistics show that every year more and
more people are rapidly forgoing penmanship altogether in favour of typing, even for small
written tasks such as shopping lists or reminders on sticky notes, most of us have replaced
these with apps. A recent British survey found that one-third
of adults hadn’t written anything by hand in the past six months. I too am dangerously close to counting myself
amongst their number, but I think that’s a great shame. Furthermore, this trend is damaging to our
intelligence as a species. The humble pen, the great bastion of written
communication for over five-thousand years. The Sumerians created the first written communication
in 3200 BC in Mesopotamia when they carved out cuneiform script into stone. The foundation of Western freedoms Magna Carta
was inked into sheepskin with beautiful Latin cursive at Runneymeade in 1215. Then, in 1776 the Declaration of Independence
was signed, written in a 17th-century script called English Roundhand. Which was mostly superseded in the late nineteenth
century by Spencerian script – you have seen Spencerian script if you have ever seen, what
one could argue is a rather popular logo… this (coca cola). Handwriting is a deep part of our culture
but today there is a concerted yet contentious effort by schools worldwide to move children
away from the pen and in front of computer screens or in front of tablets, tapping away
like lemmings. The logic being that these devices are what
they will be using in the workplace anyway, so why get them accustomed to an antiquated
writing system that may be of little to no use in their career? I’ll tell you why. Have you ever been amongst a large crowd of
people talking at once, perhaps in a busy restaurant or at a dinner party? Maybe you are thoroughly engaged in a conversation
with somebody yourself. When, all of a sudden, from the noisy static
of the crowd your brain picks out a single word or sentence and you hear it as clear
as day, even from the other side of the room. It could be your name or a bit of gossip about
somebody you know. What just happened was your brain’s Reticular
Activating System (RAS) activated. At all times there are literally millions
of bits of data in your surroundings, noises, smells, sights, and physical sensations. This is far too much for your brain to comprehend. Multiple tests over the years have shown that
the brain is only capable of focusing on a maximum of four different things at once,
and even that is optimistic. Most of the time we focus on one to two things
simultaneously. So how does our brain decide from which of
the potentially millions of possible things to focus on are worth our current time and
attention? It employs a conductor. Sitting at the central base of the brain,
the brain’s doorway to sensory inputs, it acts as a filter. All the information around us is constantly
knocking on the door of our brain for further processing, it is the job of the RAS to decide
what to let in. When we put pen to paper the RAS is activated. Because writing requires fine motor control
and the majority of our focus our RAS can’t help but prioritise whatever we are currently
writing about as the most important processing job for our brain. Conversely, when text is typed every keystroke
is exactly the same, there is no difference in motor control between pressing the G key
to the A key. Once proficient our brains can type almost
autonomously, without much thought, and so the RAS can filter out much of the information
we are taking in whilst typing, a luxury it doesn’t have whilst writing. A 2010 study confirmed this with children. When they were asked to write words such as
‘spaceship’ by hand the areas of the brain associated with learning lit up. When they typed the same words, their brain
activity was a lot quieter, as though someone had turned off the lights. Put yourself in the hypothetical scenario
of viewing a University lecture and you must take notes so you can learn vital knowledge
for an upcoming exam. You have a choice of either using a laptop
or a simple notepad and pen to record your notes – which would you choose? If you chose the laptop then you are likely
to do much worse on the exam. As researchers, Pam Mueller from Princeton
and Daniel Oppenheimer from California University found out in a 2014 study. A group of students were asked to watch five
TED talks in a lecture hall and take notes on them. Half of the students were given laptops with
no internet connection, to prevent online distractions and the other half were given
only a pen and paper. After a 30 minute break, the participants
were asked a series of questions that required knowledge from the TED talks to answer. The students who took longhand notes performed
significantly better at answering the questions than the laptop note takers. Mueller and Oppenheimer think this is because
when we type notes we usually copy whatever the lecturer is saying verbatim without attempting
to summarise it. However, because handwriting is too slow to
write every single word being spoken we are forced to summarise the lecture’s main points. In doing so the brain spends much longer processing
the information it is taking in, Mueller and Oppenheimer refer to this process as ‘encoding’. Conversely, when we type the lecture notes
word-for-word we are using the laptop as external storage for our brain. Sure, we are hearing and recording every word
with keystrokes, but because this semi-automatic process requires little thought or contemplation
our brain is not actually processing (encoding) the information, it is merely entering our
ears and passing straight through our brain into our fingers. When notes are handwritten, because we must
think about the meaning of what is being said and summarise it in a very short amount of
time, a significantly higher amount of neural processing or ‘encoding’ is required. And so, even though we are taking far fewer
notes, overall we remember the notes we have written far, far better, than when typed. Furthermore, you are more likely to understand
the meaning behind those notes afterwards, instead of staring blankly at the five-thousand
word document on your computer screen and wanting to hammer your head into the keyboard
as you suddenly realise that you have absolutely no idea what any of it means. Interestingly, they repeated the study once
more, but this time allowed both groups to re-read and study their notes for some time
after the lectures. It would make sense that if the laptop notetakers
could revise their word-for-word notes they would then be able to remember more – but
astonishingly this made little difference on their learning – the longhand notetakers
still did much better. It seems that the encoding process the longhand
notetakers did when first hearing the information was invaluable for their retention and understanding. But to me, there is one overwhelming reason
we should fight to keep handwriting alive. Because it can be absolutely beautiful. Calligraphy is an art form and all those who
practice it desire to reach such a level of mastery that they are invited to an exclusive
society with a really cool and memorable name, the ‘International Association of Master
Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting’ – it may not have a pretty name, but my god
does it have a pretty logo. IAMPETH, as it is commonly shortened to are
an international organisation responsible for choosing master penmen. A master penman is a calligrapher who has
reached a distinguished level of mastery in calligraphic arts. There are many stages to qualify as a master
penman, but the final is they must rather aptly, create their own certificate. There are currently only twelve master penmen
in the world and they create beautiful works of art like these. Technology is amazing and if we all abandoned
it for the pen then the modern world would grind to a halt. But I think it’s really important that the
art form of writing by hand is kept alive as we rush ceaselessly into a technological
future. IAMPETH is certainly grasping to keep the
art of penmanship and all its history and culture alive, but twelve master penman can
only do so much. If we all try to take a moment every now and
then to simply pen a letter to a friend or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try
your hand at calligraphy then, collectively, we can preserve the very thing that built
our world. I believe that the best way to get started
with calligraphy is by joining Skillshare. Skillshare is an online learning community
with thousands of classes in writing, art and calligraphy. Premium Membership gives you unlimited access
to high-quality classes on must-know topics, so you can improve your skills, unlock new
opportunities, and do the work you love. Compared to the competition Skillshare is
really affordable: an annual subscription is less than $10 a month. Since Skillshare is sponsoring this video,
the first 500 people to use the promo link in the description will get their first 2
months free to try it out, risk-free. Thank you for watching. And thanks again to Skillshare for sponsoring
this video, be sure to click the link in the description if you want to start your journey
to becoming a master penman.

100 thoughts on “The Stupid Keyboard Effect: Each Day You Type Your Brain Degrades a Little

  1. I write notes, but you're saying my relatively slow typing speed and summarising noting habits do have benefits, huh?

  2. I am surprised to find that at work I use both a Microsoft Wordpad file I have named "Jotter" and handwritten notes on little paper squares. The paper squares are good for taking info to another work group if I want to bypass the slowness of email.

  3. This man is an embodiment of someone much older. Like an old person pre alzheimer's. This guy can't stand change. I find it difficult to take much of what he says seriously, especially with that slug on his upper lip. Even that is old fashioned. Using paper uses up more resources, technology makes our mundane, uninteresting and tedious lives easier, and this individual does nothing but find evidence to support his grumpy old man views. Look Thoughty2, some of the video's you make are interesting and informative, but content like this is silly. No one is going to forget how to write, and few people give a shit about pretty writing, as it's primary purpose is to store information, not to look all nice and preserve some old fuddy duddies art form. We don't have time for that in our modern, and busier than ever lives, so move on like the majority of the population.

  4. problem is, since the vast majority of lectures in university is now presented in powerpoint presentations – the lecturer does not waste any time in writing or drawing on the doard. the pase of the lecture and the amount of information one lecture contains is far to grate to be able to sumorise it in writing speed. also the notion that whatever i didnt grasp right away i can find in the course website or the general internet relaxes the concentration muscles and even discourages from asking the professor during the lecture. overall the transition to typing occured due to the transition in lecture tactics so the writing solution is not that simple.

  5. Writing on a keyboard: 500 chars per minute and you can read all of 'em
    Writing with a pen: Pain and misery and nobody can read what I just wrote. 🙁

  6. I wrote in bootcamp. I prefer writing but I don’t have a reason to write at all really. Other then work I don’t write shit. Sadly.

  7. 6:05 this experiment definitely has clear flaws. Auditory and maybe visual learners have an advantage due to it being a ted talks and they’re just sitting and listening to what’s happening, leaving kinaesthetic learners at a disadvantage. Also, some may have learning difficulties, and some may be more interested in the subject of the ted talk than others. There are also many more variables, and it seems as if none of them were controlled, so this experiment is definitely inaccurate. Not saying the reasoning isn’t valid, but the experiment shouldn’t be shown as proof due to these flaws.

  8. I write sometimes just to check my handwriting is improving. I’m autistic and have the fine motor skills of a drunk giraffe so when I have to read something later handwriting is not an option. So I write for fun.

  9. I grew up in front of a computer, practically born with a keyboard in hand, but after discovering the greatness that is Warhammer I taught myself calligraphy.
    Both typing and handwriting are equally important for opposite reasons, just like everything else in life. The yin to the yang.

  10. When I take notes by hand I can't fucking read them so I decided one day to write down keywords instead of sentences. Then simply I typed those words and learned about details that weren't even on the lecture. That was perfect method for me, try it too

  11. DOUBT
    I'd never be able to type as quickly as some one speaks. And im far too lazy as well, I'd summarize it anyways. But i must admit, the pen tickles ones brain.

  12. My hand writing so awful. I am lucky that I can write on pc. Otherwise no one could read what I wrote. That said I still have to hand write every week at my job every now and then.

  13. Well shit, I guess I am a blight on human intelligence because I can not write. And I can’t even do anything about it. So yeah. 🙂

  14. Handwriting is personal, you can create your own writing style. True, some people write illegible and that's a pain but it can also be used as a code that way. Handwriting is cool.

  15. Whenever I took down notes on a laptop, there was always a small voice in my mind saying "You do know that you're letting the laptop do the remembering for you, don't you?"
    When I have children, and home-school them, we will definitely do more hand-writing, and now I'll have a reason why!

  16. Ingenrion wanted..
    iPad/Tab pen that disables hand-touch gestures. So that we can write without the fear of accidental touches.
    The handwriiten script can then be viewed in digital texts later on.

  17. My handwriting is so bad i cannot decipher it myself when I revisit it month later. To learn something you read or listen, and only after do you write, its that simple, dont understand where people got the idea that writing while listening is somehow efficient.

  18. i actually write, writing a book rn so far 272 pages. and actual cursive letters and advanced words.

  19. 6:08 I’m still a shit student and always use handwriting (partly bc I’m poor af and can’t afford more than my phone lol)

  20. Slavery made the world and many countries what they are today but that doesn't mean it should be encouraged or a reason to increase slavery.

  21. Yeah, there's something in writing by hand, I'm muuuch faster at typing than in hand writing, but I can never focus when typing, and all ideas come much harder to me. While writing by pen I can easily fill few pages with nonsense/stream of continuousnes

  22. Now we have rifles that can shoot from kilometres away, drone planes that can assassinate people from the comfort of your own home, Nuke ICBMs that can end a country in mere hours, aegis defense, and so on all advanced tech.

    But we must not forget melee combat.

  23. I type like a sloth and summarize a lot while doing it, what does that mean in term of information retention?
    (I do prefer handwritting though, for the exact reasons cited in this video)

  24. And if you use an electronic pen like the one used in galaxy note phones would that count as writing?

  25. With how bad at multitasking I am, I think the fact that typing is less brain intensive is actually good, because
    when I'm taking hand written notes in school I often loose track of what the teacher is talking about

  26. What about those that are terrible at summarising and struggle to keep up with what is being said, and who often can't understand what they are saying because they are spending too much focus writing what is on the board?

  27. I'm attending a school for electronics engineers and I have to take notes with pen and paper. Not because of the rules. Because the language of an electronics engineer is circuit drawing. You could theoretically draw the circuit with a computer too, but it's way faster and easier with pen and paper.

  28. Handwriting is an important skill to have, we take our technology and computers for granted but our world can be easily changed overnight in a disaster, what if the power goes out?

  29. I put pen to paper every day and always carry a pen with me.
    Also when I left school my hand writing was appalling but is now so much better

  30. Interesting perspective, good to know. I'm left handed and my handwriting has always been slow and just sucks in general, so I admittedly tend to avoid.
    I've also been writing a digital journal for well over a decade, averaging 2000 words an hour. If that same amount of time was put into handwriting until now there's absolutely no way I could've have written as broadly and deeply until now, so perhaps handwriting isn't always the most beneficial option.

  31. guess that's why my handwritten short essays always turned out better with less mistakes than those typed ones.
    at least now i know i was right when i said i remember school stuff better when i write down my notes and summary for the test. to think others tried to convince me doing by pc …

  32. So, what happens to those that are slow at typing? Will they not summarize the notes too?

    The beauty of writing is that your senses are fully engaged. Other than knowing what to write, how to write also comes in handy as one shapes each letter to form a word.

    Same case happens to if I watched this video and if I read it about it. reading would engage my imagination, watching lowers its intensity.

  33. TED-talks consists mainly of meaningless jibbering form in unintelligent motivational talkers anyway, so i suspect that this wold be easyer to remember for sombody living in the past, whit pen en paper.

  34. Did anyone else notice the irony of the internet learning platform sponsoring the video promoting using pen and paper rather than relying on computers? 😂

  35. Humans eventually won't even need intelligence. We will have AI for that. Why do a math problem the hard way with a pencil and paper and 15 minutes (or years, depending on complexity) when there's a calculator and 5 seconds? I asked my math teacher that in the early 1980's and she didn't give me a real answer.

  36. I bet that back in the day, when writing was first invented, people would look at those that could write and be like "he's so stupid, he can't remember anything and has to write everything. it's gonna make our entire species dumber"

  37. Assuming the ultimate goal of taking notes is mastering the topic at hand, it's no surprise that putting more intellectual effort into processing the information into understandable, reconstructible format in the first place, and then actually refreshing those same neural pathways while studying, yields better results, than just half-mindedly copying the information over and over.

    Let alone the fact, that taking notes electronically often requires significant amount of attention to be diverged into handling the software (e.g. when you suddenly need to draw something inbetween text-only notes).

  38. Discovered this years ago. When studying stuff I found that writing it out drove it into my thick skull better by far than merely reading it. It slows down the rate of coverage, reducing completely the tendency to skim-read stuff you know you should cover – but my retention of the content was infinitely improved by writing it out.

  39. I've written a story that spanned ten notebooks. When I started typing my stories down, I felt there was some difference I noticed. I felt as if I was more creative with pen and paper than I was with a computer. I also noticed that I can remember story ideas better if I write them down on paper. Thanks for the video, Thoughty2.

  40. This is analogous to those of us of a certain age who learned mental arithmetic before the advent of electronic calculators that are so much used by those who are unable to do even the most basic of arithmetic in their heads.

  41. Does taking notes and/or doing math by hand count as real writing?
    Or should it be writing complex stories or record keeping by hand?

  42. I recently started to learn Japanese. I decided to buy a notebook so I can write the words and letters there so I can learn better, instead of writing them on a keyboard.

  43. yeah, save me a lot of time not havi t decypher someone writing when it not in cuigraphy.
    Most of my teacher willining didn't do it on the board either.

  44. I don't know how you can state that pressing one key is no different from pressing another. Very fine adjustments in finger movements are required for each different letter to be struck. When I type I feel like my brain is directly connected to the words that appear. The speed of my thoughts hitting the screen via the keyboard astounds me, as the keys rattle in sympathy. No dice, T2

  45. Thoughty, you make all these videos about how dangers XYZ is, and admit you do it, too. You know you could just… not do the thing, right? YOU have the ability to put down your smartphone. You're an intelligent man despite your moustache. I believe in you.

  46. Love how it's all; "We need to get back to the pen.". Then at the end it's all; "Check out these online courses."

    Just an astonishing bit of irony. That said however, calligraphy is wonderful, in so many ways. However, the unfortunate issue is that all this "extra" learning, and brain engagement comes at a price of simple time. I don't think it's the penning vs. typing that is a direct effect on learning, but rather what the student is actually engaging with. Being aloof is certainly more easily accomplished via typing, but in many modern cases typing is actually the medium by which what is being learned is actually applied. The pen isn't going to help you encode a program, for instance. Also, as a side note, many people, less proficient with the keyboard, are focused on accuracy more than the topic at hand. Imagine trying to take notes in perfect Spencerian, for example. Doubtless this would teach you the calligraphy skill much more than the topic you're attempting to transpose.

    No, I think the act of summation is the important thing to employ, actually. This also should be (by proficient teachers) expounded upon with intermittent practical exercise. Rather than a monotone reading of the textbook…

  47. Thank you so much for this video! As a teacher, I feel this Master Penman status could really inspire students to take pride in their handwriting! 💥

  48. I write in cursive all the time on purpose. In school I wrote notes for EVERYTHING because I knew it made me remember better!!

  49. As a university student, I take all my notes by hand. I realized in high school that I learnt and remembered a lot more while writing by hand. So I've stuck to it.

  50. F*ck paper, typing 4 life. Less exhausting and painful for muscles, content easy to process (search, fix, format etc.) and it doesn't waste paper. Think of the trees! I'm going completely paperless. I wish the only existing paper was toilet paper.

  51. I used to like this guy but I found he makes many unfair tests like this one, the people typing and the people writing do two different procedures one word for word and the other summerize and most definitely there will be two different results, if they both summerize then you would have the same result from both.

    Apples and oranges don't taste the same. Same summerize and words for word don't give the same result.

    Maybe you think we already are stupid and believe those tests show that writing with a pencil is better than typing

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