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Handwriting Makes You Smarter: Put Down Your Keyboards and Pick Up your Montblanc Pens

The science is in: there are benefits to putting down your keyboards and picking up your Montblanc pens because the act of writing itself triggers special centers for learning in the brain which improve your memory capacity and recall.

Jul 26, 2017 | By Jonathan Ho

According to Psychology Today, there are surprising benefits to putting down your keyboards and picking up your Montblanc pens because writing by hand could actually make you smarter.

Gone are the days where penmanship was a required class in school where generations of adults first learned to write alphabets and then progressed to beautiful cursive sentences. Today, Millennials are growing up in an environment of personal computing devices which render handwriting all but necessary only for tests and exam papers. In fact, with instant messaging, emails and printed school reports and essays on the rise, academic curriculars in many schools in most developed countries have dropped the “archaic skill” of cursive handwriting entirely. That said, cognitive scientists are beginning to discover that learning cursive is an important foundation for cognitive development because you are essentially learning “functional specialisation” – the act of putting pen to paper and then executing maneuvers which deliver aesthetically pleasing sentences and paragraphs creates an environment where the capacity for optimal efficiency aka functional specialisation is drastically improved.

Handwriting Makes You Smarter: Put Down Your Keyboards and Pick Up your Montblanc Pens

Regarding functional specialisation, there was debate as to whether the writing practice which facilitated neural specialization was triggered by driven perceptual feedback from the act of writing itself or the actual execution of the motor act

paper by Kersey and James of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, researchers discovered that after testing 7 year olds in a battery of handwriting tests both through active self-production and passive observation, fMRI analysis concluded that brain activation patterns were generated through active training – that is to say, the act of writing, which “increased recruitment of the sensori-motor network associated with letter perception” rather than triggered by mere passive observation.

In young adults, Researchers from Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a similar study using different experimental stimuli – that of differences between students who wrote their notes as opposed to students who typed them. Subjects took notes during a lecture using one of the two methods and were tested on the material after. In the short term, both methods of notetaking performed well in terms of recall after 30 minutes with typists having better verbatim grasp of the material but handwritten notetakers were able to better explain concepts of the lecture after a week had passed. Not to mention, they were also more receptive to the understanding of new ideas.

In an interview with Wall Street Journal, educational psychologist Kenneth Kiewra from the University of Nebraska revealed a similar study with a startling conclusion – laptop notetakers had a slight advantage because typing meant transcribing lectures verbatim but handwritten notes tended to be briefer and better organised with accompanying illustrations, this meant that handwritten notes were produced by processing the lecture and then putting ideas down on paper in a brief yet understandable way – giving the handwriters an advantage in remembering and digesting new concepts long-term.

Penmanship: Handwriting engages the brain

 

Transcription, the act of taking down a lecture word for word on your laptop doesn’t require critical thinking; but since the hand doesn’t write as fast as speech, handwriting your notes requires you to engage with the materials to put down an interpretation of the information pre-processed by you. Because the information is type-written, your brain is not effectively engaged with the material, signalling your brain to discard the lecture over the long term for the sake of efficiency.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated, there is core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental stimulation in your brain, it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realise. Thus, learning is made easier.” – French Psycholgist Stanislas Dehaene to New York Times

 

More interestingly, in children who had practiced self-generated printing by hand, their neural activity was far more enhanced and “adult-like” than in those who had simply looked at letters and because of the varying styles – writing letters in meaningful context, as opposed to just writing them as drawing objects, produced much more robust activation of many areas in both hemispheres pf the brain.

A vintage Montblanc 246 with flexible nib allows you to replicate many signature (no pun intended) cursive styles

A vintage Montblanc 246 with flexible nib allows you to replicate many signature (no pun intended) cursive styles

 

When writing in cursive, the brain must execute each stroke relative to other strokes, while remembering the appropriate size and slant in context of the other letters before it and the details of each individual letter – this forces the brain to develop and refine categorisation skills. Thus, writing in cursive is more advantageous than mere handwriting because the actions or movement tasks are more demanding without the repetition of mere handwriting stereotypical shapes.

“Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual, and tactile information, and fine motor dexterity.” – Psychology Today

Cognitive scientists believe that cursive writing engages artistic senses in the same way learning to play a musical instrument improves brain development. Furthermore, the beauty of the writing and the aesthetics of it, reinforce the role of emotion during specific stages of “encoding” or remembering that information.

With its elegant all-metal appearance, the inspiration behind the Montblanc Solitaire Serpent Limited Edition 1906 is a historical Montblanc metal and gold writing instrument from the 1922-1932 period. The original writing instrument featured a barrel and cap made from chased silver. The chasing technique is used on this latest limited edition, intricately decorated with a magnificent serpent engraved on the platinum-coated metal surface.

With its elegant all-metal appearance, the inspiration behind the Montblanc Solitaire Serpent Limited Edition 1906 is a historical Montblanc metal and gold writing instrument from the 1922-1932 period. The original writing instrument featured a barrel and cap made from chased silver. The chasing technique is used on this latest limited edition, intricately decorated with a magnificent serpent engraved on the platinum-coated metal surface.

The design of the Montblanc Writers Edition Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Limited Edition are inspired by ‘Night Flight’, his famous novel based on his experiences as an airmail pilot. The shape of the writing instrument recalls his Caudron Simoun plane with engravings on the night blue precious resin barrel and cap reminiscent of the rivets of the aircraft.

The design of the Montblanc Writers Edition Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Limited Edition are inspired by ‘Night Flight’, his famous novel based on his experiences as an airmail pilot. The shape of the writing instrument recalls his Caudron Simoun plane with engravings on the night blue precious resin barrel and cap reminiscent of the rivets of the aircraft.

It may well be that the physicality of shaping letters cements concepts in the mind. For example, to type the word “typing,” I made the same motion on the keyboard six times, choosing which letter to type but not forming them. But if I were to write the same thing by hand, I’d have to shape six different letters and put them together. That takes more effort and seems to both demand more of the brain and leave a deeper imprint on the mind than typing. That imprint appears to be critical when learning new things – the more emotionally charged it was, the longer we retained memory of it and our chances of recalling specific details relating to it.

 

 

It looks like you might want to start handwriting your reports in cursive first before typing them out.

 

 

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