Technology has changed the way we do everything, especially how we live day to day. Technology has changed the way we work, the way we learn, the way we interact with the people we love, and now there is proof that technology has changed the way we read. Technology has changed the way we use our brains to import and process information.
Studies on how we process information on the screen versus how we process words on paper have been published since the 1980s; since then, recent studies have confirmed that we tend to comprehend less and read slower when reading on screens than on paper. According to Scientific American, digital reading material may prevent readers from “navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.”
More interestingly, the feel of reading a physical book is more important to the reading process than you may have realized. Books are easily flippable. You can go back and forth between pages easily, and turning pages as you progress through a book is like “leaving one footprint after another,” and the rhythm of page turning allows the reader to create a mental map of where you’ve come and where you’re going within the text.
eReaders escape this mapping by presenting one page at a time, which makes it difficult to see one particular section within the context of the entire text.
Scientific American used a Google Maps analogy to explain why this is problematic in terms of reading comprehension:
“[I]magine if Google Maps allowed people to navigate street by individual street, as well as to teleport to any specific address, but prevented them from zooming out to see a neighborhood, state or country.”
Because of the idea that eReaders are somewhat limited or lacking, readers may also bring a different attitude to their eBooks, and approaching “tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning” than if they were reading a physical book. This is important for those in school or professions that require large volumes of reading, especially if they are constantly working with digital texts or considering swapping their books for eReaders.
This phenomenon is starting to even out with the most recent generation, who are growing up more familiar with screens, eBooks, and tablets, but we aren’t yet sure of the impact that growing up with so much integrated technology will have on this generation. Only time will tell whether they are able to better understand the digital texts, and whether how they read reading has been drastically changed from previous generations.
Are you faced with mountains of digital text at work or at school? Do you think it is interfering with your ability to understand and retain information?
Let us know, and check out the rest of the article from Scientific American for a deeper look into how technology is changing the way we read.