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It is common for self-teaching courses to insist of writing something down, rather than just thinking about it. But how about typing it?

Is it just the extra time it takes to write something down that makes it sink deeper, or maybe the analog motor skills involved with writing being different than the more digital typing skills?

Goals/affirmations: There seems to be a lot of research proving the effectiveness of writing down affirmations, but is it just the act of repeated, reaffirmation that leads to the success? Would it really matter if the affirmations were purposely said, written or typed?

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Maybe you should crosspost this to to get some scientific studies that explain the difference in detail quantitatively and qualitatively. Very good question – Hauser Oct 14 '12 at 18:48
up vote 10 down vote accepted

There have been a lot of studies on handwriting and memory. The Wall Street Journal article How Handwriting Trains the Brain talks about one such study that shows that children learn to recognize letter shapes faster and more accurately if they write them out rather than typing them. Writing by hand also helps adults who are learning a graphically different language, "such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry." The article suggests that it's the physical activity of writing and the link between the hand and the brain (not the extra time taken) that helps improve learning.

The Telegraph article Write it don't type it if you want knowledge to stick mentions that the increased time that it takes to write things out by hand may play a part in increased learning, but it also talks about the increased mental effort and feedback that the brain receives from your hand when writing vs. typing.

The LifeHacker article Why You Learn More Effectively By Writing Than Typing talks about the link between writing and goal achievement.

A couple of studies, though, substantiate why the physical act of writing really does boost learning and goal achievement. Hoping to provide actual scientific proof on the efficacy of writing down and sharing goals (to make up for an often-quoted mythical Harvard/Yale study of goals), a psych professor at Dominican University of California found that people who wrote down their goals, shared them with others, and maintained accountability for their goals were 33 per cent more likely to achieve them, versus those who just formulated goals. (One can argue that in this instance, typing would be equally effective; see “Why Writing Works Better Than Typing” below for why writing still may be better.) Another study found positive effects of writing on learning foreign words, and a survey of note-taking studies found several examples where taking notes helped students with recall and academic performance.

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+1 for learning vocabulary of a new language writing is the best method. Same goes for painted colorful mind maps summarizing more complex knowledge, you understand things reading wikipedia, but you don't learn this way very well the content – Hauser Oct 14 '12 at 18:45
It seems like the these studies with regard to writing/typing are about learning a language. What about learning in general? If I am studying car repair do I get a benefit from writing versus typing my notes?? – Scooter Oct 14 '12 at 21:56
@Scooter, I've searched some more, but I can't find any studies other than the ones on learning reading/writing/language skills. I imagine the results will vary greatly based on the topic you're learning. (Take programming as an example. I'd expect you to learn a lot more about programming from typing vs. writing longhand simply because you wouldn't be compiling/running/debugging programs you wrote out by hand.) – Bill the Lizard Oct 19 '12 at 13:06
@BilltheLizard Thanks for the reply! – Scooter Oct 19 '12 at 13:23
@BilltheLizard Aside from the methods and techniques that I use daily (which, ironically, studying Computer Science at university didn't really focus a whole lot on), I remember algorithms and principles that I wrote out by hand more clearly and quickly than the ones I merely typed out. I absolutely HATED writing it out at the time, but now I'm grateful that I did. – AndrewJacksonZA Oct 24 '12 at 9:24

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