Handwriting versus keyboard writing: Effect on word recall


  • Anne Mangen
  • Liss G. Anda
  • Gunn H. Oxborough
  • Kolbjørn Brřnnick




embodied cognition, ergonomics of writing, handwriting, keyboard writing, word memory and recall


The objective of this study was to explore effects of writing modality on word recall and recognition. The following three writing modalities were used: handwriting with pen on paper; typewriting on a conventional laptop keyboard; and typewriting on an iPad touch keyboard. Thirty-six females aged 19-54 years participated in a fully counterbalanced within-subjects experimental design. Using a wordlist paradigm, participants were instructed to write down words (one list per writing modality) read out loud to them, in the three writing modalities. Memory for words written using handwriting, a conventional keyboard and a virtual iPad keyboard was assessed using oral free recall and recognition. The data was analyzed using non-parametric statistics. Results show that there was an omnibus effect of writing modality and follow-up analyses showed that, for the free recall measure, participants had significantly better free recall of words written in the handwriting condition, compared to both keyboard writing conditions. There was no effect of writing modality in the recognition condition. This indicates that, with respect to aspects of word recall, there may be certain cognitive benefits to handwriting which may not be fully retained in keyboard writing. Cognitive and educational implications of this finding are discussed.



How to Cite

Mangen, A., Anda, L. G., Oxborough, G. H., & Brřnnick, K. (2015). Handwriting versus keyboard writing: Effect on word recall. Journal of Writing Research, 7(2), 227–247. https://doi.org/10.17239/jowr-2015.07.02.1