Why Handwriting Makes You Smarter
Handwriting has become a dying art, now that kids start using keyboards as soon as they begin school. But writing things out by hand may be a critical way we train our brains, several studies suggest.
Writing by hand is different from typing because it requires using strokes to create a letter, rather than just selecting the whole letter by touching a key, says Virginia Berninger a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. These finger movements activate large regions of the brain involved in thinking, memory, and language.
Handwriting helps children learn letters and shapes, improves their composition of ideas, and may also boost fine-motor skills development.
A study by Berninger found that in grades two, four, and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand than when typing on a keyboard.
A separate study by researchers at Indiana University found that children who practiced printing by hand had more active brains than kids who simply looked at letters.
It’s not just children who benefit from writing things out by hand, says a study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Adults learning a new language remember its characters better if they write them out by hand than if they produce them with a keyboard.
As more people spend their days on the computer, says neuroscientist P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University, “retraining people in handwriting skills could be a useful cognitive exercise.“