Paper: Bigger Impact than Digital

Paper: Bigger Impact than Digital

Paper has gotten a bit of a bad wrap over the last few decades with the supposedly “green” paperless movement (read our article on how paperless doesn’t necessarily equate to eco-friendliness here). However, now that people have started looking past the blind claims that digital is more environmentally-friendly than paper, researchers have been noticing several of paper’s strengths over digital media.

Despite you personal preferences, many of paper’s advantages over digital media occur in your subconscious. Paper marketing materials such as direct mail are much more effective because they are more “real” to the brain. Because it engages the spatial memory network and involves more emotional processing, direct mail does a much better job of sticking in your brain.

In a study by Canada Post, participants were shown an advertisement for a fictional brand; some of the participants were shown a print ad and some where down a digital ad. Only 44 percent of those who saw the digital ad could recall it whereas 75 percent of the participants shown the print ad remembered.

Since the brain is able to retain and recall more information from “real” print materials, items such as physical textbooks are better learning aids than their ereader counterparts. People are able to comprehend more from physical books and don’t lose focus as much as they would with a digital copy.

Physical textbooks aren’t the only ones with an advantage, but books for leisurely reading do as well. Many people find it hard to develop as much of an emotional connection with a screen. Readers claim books feel more immersive and real.

All in all, paper is just more personable than a screen. Our brains are hardwired in a way that better stores information from paper sources than digital ones. So not only is digital media not necessarily “greener” (and can in fact be more wasteful due to the nonrenewable resources used to make digital devices), but they’re not as effective for retention or overall comprehension.


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