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Paper and Pen Better for your Brain Than Software?



BoingBoing links to an interesting study by Dutch psychologist Christof Van Nimwegen that posits that pen and paper will better boost your creative problem solving than using a computer. His PhD dissertation, The paradox of the assisted user: guidance can be counterproductive (update: the link is fixed and see a correction below)got some attention from Michael Leddy who summarizes by saying ““software turns us into passive beings, subjected to the whims of computers, randomly clicking on icons and menu options. In the long run, this hinders our creativity and memory.”

James Kendrick (thanks for the link) says there is a lot to be said about this and points to his Tablet PC usage saying it stimulates his creative process. I couldn’t agree more with jk. Frequently when I get stuck in either a rut or just a brain logjam trying to solve a problem, I find myself heading off to somewhere other than my office, Tablet PC in slate mode in hand, to work through the brain cramps. That usually does the trick, although to be fair, it is easy to jump into procrastination mode unless I have the discipline not to.

Correction: Mr. Van Nimwegen writes in to say, ”

Never, ever in my life have I investigated the use of paper and pens/pencil, nor did I ever mention any of these. NOT ONCE, leave alone that I have done experiments with them! I do indeed mention the issue that under certain circumstances software can make us act “passive” and the text string “randomly clicking on icons and menu options”. But this is completely out of context as it stands here, most of it is really nonsense.”>

I take his point and have to admit I followed summaries from some of the other links from other bloggers without reading his dissertation.  That said, my point in linking to the story from BoingBoing (linked above) that begins with: Dutch psychologist Christof van Nimwegen posits that paper and pens/pencils boost learning and creative problem solving much more than computers do. As a Tablet PC guy, that got me to thinking instead of reading. While I think my ultimate point that for those who might think paper and pen can stimulate creative problem solving better than a computer is worth a discussion, apologies to Mr. Van Nimwegen for making that leap.

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