Is writing it down better? Enhanced memory recall and a dopamine hit.

Is writing it down better? Enhanced memory recall and a dopamine hit.

I've always enjoyed learning about the brain, why we do what we do, and how to change things for the better. When I heard that physically writing something down could have more benefits for you than typing something it made sense to me, but I wanted to know why. I LOVE my To Do list, my monthly goals list, my weekly menu planning session and I love the satisfaction crossing something off those lists brings me. 

So several podcasts and a little research later I now understand the science a little better and wanted to share the basics with you. 

Writing something down on paper, as opposed to digitally, can offer several advantages for the brain:

Enhanced Memory Encoding: Research ( cited below) suggests that handwriting engages more cognitive processes than typing. When you write something by hand, you're actively forming each letter, which can lead to better memory encoding compared to simply tapping keys on a keyboard. This deeper processing enhances retention and recall of information.

Spatial Awareness and Visualisation: Writing on paper allows you to spatially organise your thoughts. You can draw diagrams, arrows, or other visual aids to connect ideas. This spatial awareness and visualisation can aid comprehension and memory retention by providing additional contextual cues.

Reduced Distractions: Digital devices often come with various distractions, such as notifications, emails, or other apps. Writing on paper eliminates these distractions, allowing you to focus solely on the task at hand. This enhanced focus can lead to better concentration and productivity.

Tactile Feedback: The physical act of writing on paper provides tactile feedback, engaging different sensory pathways in the brain. This sensory experience can enhance the learning process and make the information more memorable.

Personalisation and Creativity: With paper and pen, you have the freedom to personalise your notes, using different colors, fonts, or styles. This creative aspect can make the process more enjoyable and engaging, leading to better information retention.

Less Strain on Eyes: Extended screen time can lead to eye strain and fatigue. Writing on paper reduces this strain, providing a more comfortable and sustainable way to engage with information for extended periods.

While digital tools offer convenience and flexibility, writing on paper can provide unique cognitive and sensory benefits that support learning, comprehension, and memory retention. However, the effectiveness of paper versus digital methods may vary depending on individual preferences and learning styles. Experimenting with both approaches can help determine which works best for you.

And what about that dopamine hit? When you cross something off your to-do list, it can trigger a release of dopamine in your brain, creating a feeling of satisfaction and reward. Here's how it works:

Reward System Activation: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with the brain's reward system. It plays a key role in motivating behavior by reinforcing actions that lead to pleasure or reward.

Goal Achievement: Crossing an item off your to-do list represents a small accomplishment or goal achieved. Your brain interprets this as a success, triggering the release of dopamine as a reward for completing the task.

Positive Reinforcement: The release of dopamine provides positive reinforcement for the behavior of completing tasks. This encourages you to continue using your to-do list and completing tasks in the future.

Sense of Progress: Each time you cross off an item, you experience a sense of progress towards your larger goals. This can boost your mood and motivation, making you more likely to tackle the next task on your list.

Reduced Stress: Dopamine release also helps to counteract the stress response associated with having unfinished tasks. It creates a sense of relief and accomplishment, reducing feelings of anxiety and increasing overall well-being.

Overall, the dopamine hit you experience when crossing something off your to-do list is a natural mechanism that reinforces productive behavior, promotes goal achievement, and contributes to a positive emotional state. It's one of the reasons why to-do lists are such effective tools for motivation and productivity.

Hope you learned something from this, and if you love all this stuff as much as me I'd love to hear from you. 

Angela, and the Sort My House Team xxx

Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014): This study, titled "The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking," published in the journal Psychological Science, found that students who took notes by hand performed better on conceptual questions compared to those who typed their notes. The researchers suggested that handwriting involves deeper processing, leading to better retention and comprehension of the material.

James, K. H., & Engelhardt, L. (2012): In their study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, titled "The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Functional Brain Development in Pre-Literate Children," researchers used neuroimaging techniques to examine brain activity in children learning to write by hand. They found that handwriting activated areas of the brain associated with language, motor skills, and memory, suggesting that it engages multiple cognitive processes.

Longcamp, M., Boucard, C., Gilhodes, J. C., Anton, J. L., Roth, M., Nazarian, B., & Velay, J. L. (2008): In this study published in the journal Neuroscience, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare brain activity during handwriting and typing tasks. They found that handwriting involved more extensive neural networks, including areas associated with motor control, visual processing, and memory, compared to typing.


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