Paper versus Pixel

Our eyes tell us that the words and pictures on a screen are pretty much identical to the words and pictures on a piece of paper. But our eyes lie. What we’re learning now is that reading is a bodily activity. We take in information the way we experience the world—as much with our sense of touch as with our sense of sight. Some scientists believe that our brain actually interprets written letters and words as physical objects—a reflection of the fact that our minds evolved to perceive things, not symbols... A recent experiment conducted with young readers in Norway found that, with both expository and narrative works, people who read from a printed page understand a text better than those who read the same material on a screen. The findings are consistent with a series of other studies on the process of reading. “We know from empirical and theoretical research that having a good spatial mental representation of the physical layout of the text supports reading comprehension,” wrote the Norwegian researchers. They suggested that the ability of print readers to “see as well as tactilely feel the spatial extension and physical dimensions” of an entire text likely played a role in their superior comprehension.

Nicholas Carr, "Paper Versus Pixel" Nautilus Quarterly, issue 4, 2013 -