Text on Screen vs. Type on Paper: Which is Easier to Remember?

3.8 based on 69 ratings

Updated on Dec 17, 2013

Grade Level: 4th to 5th; Type: Social Science

Discover whether reading text on a computer screen or type on paper leads to better retention of information.

  • How many words read on the computer screen and how many read on paper does each test subject remember?
  • Did the screen or the paper lead to consistently more words being remembered?

More and more often students are reading eBooks or doing research and gathering information on the Internet. This experiment explores whether reading text on a computer screen or type on paper leads to better retention of the information read.

  • A computer
  • A printer
  • Printer Paper
  • A timer or watch
  • Paper and pencil for tracking results
  • At least 20 test subjects

  1. Develop two simple memory tests: lists of words that the test subject will study and then try to remember. The lists should be different but equally difficult.
  2. In a word-processing program, type one list of words.
  3. Print this list out on plain white paper.
  4. Repeat for the second list of words.
  5. Show the test subject the computer screen with the words from one list on the screen. Allow him to study it for 30 seconds.
  6. Take the computer away and ask the subject to name as many of the words as he can remember.
  7. Now repeat the memory test using the sheet of paper with the second list of words printed on it.
  8. Record the number of words retained from each list.
  9. Repeat steps 5 to 8 for all test subjects. Switch off whether you test the computer screen or the paper first and which list of words you use on each in order to prevent test, test-practice and test-fatigue biases.
  10. Analyze the results. Did either the screen or the paper lead to a consistently higher number of words being retained?
  11. Extension: A day or two later, ask test subjects to list all the words they can remember from the tests. Note how many words remembered the subject saw on the computer and how many were seen on paper. This will measure retention for long-term rather than short-term memory. Is there a difference in results for long and short-term memory?

Terms/Concepts: memory, retention, long-term memory, short-term memory

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