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Calligraphy Makes you Smarter -- Here's How...

A few weeks ago, the very clever Jon Teo and I got to chatting about  the neuroscience of calligraphy. I know... I know... I get a bit nerdy about this topic, but it's just SO interesting!

And I love the idea that doing something I love is making me smarter. 

So, Jon offered to write an article for us about just how this happens. A huge thanks to Jon Teo for this great article. Make sure you follow him and his luscious feed on IG @the_beautiful_brain .



Handwriting, Learning, and Memory by Jonathan Teo

As we advance into a technological age, handwriting is slowly becoming a lost art. Typing on a keyboard or touching a screen is replacing the need for a pen and pencil.

However, what effect does that have on the brain?

The brain is one of the most important organs in the human body that controls many functions from a task as easy as wiggling your index finger to more complex ones such as stringing together words to form a coherent sentence.

When we write, extensive brain networks, mainly in the left half of the brain becomes activated.  A recent analysis of various brain imaging studies identified that out of the 12 networks that were observed to be activated during writing, only 3 of these were primarily writing-specific while the others are involved non-specific motor and linguistic processes [1]. {holy cow-- that's awesome! xo Danielle}

We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the complexities of the brain. Understanding these processes may help in identifying why some people have inherent difficulties in reading, spelling and writing and perhaps also lead to treatment for those who have lost these abilities as a result of brain injury such as stroke.  

Growing up, I was always encouraged to transcribe and write texts to facilitate memorising. While it’s a practice I kept up with even through university life, I’ve always wondered how the younger generation is adapting to a more technological age where exposure to the keyboard precedes handwriting. 

Longcamp and colleagues asked, “If children happen to learn to write with a keyboard before they master handwriting, will this affect the way they perceive written language?” [2]

Seventy-six children, between the age of 38 to 53 months (about 3 – 4 years old), participated in this study. The children were grouped based on their current age and skills at letter recognition and then randomly assigned to the “handwriting” or “typing” group. This study showed that in the older children, handwriting improved their ability to memorise letters but no difference was observed between handwriting or typing in the younger/middle-aged children.

It is important to note that these children are very young with no prior learning experience to reading and writing. This meant that the children were learning these letters based on how they looked rather than from the way it sounds.

One possible reason as to why handwriting training was not as effective in younger children under 50 months of age might be because they have yet to form the fine motor control required to produce precise writing movement.

The difference between learning from handwriting and typing is that handwriting requires a variety of movements which reflect the shape of the letter hence forming a unique pattern for each letter. Typing, on the other hand, requires learning of where the letters are on the keyboard (spatial memory) and then pressing a key. There is no unique movement that differentiates each letter as the movement is dependent on where one’s finger is in relation to where the key is on the keyboard at that particular time.

Learning to write a letter may require a deeper level of processing compared to typing, which uses visual discrimination to identify the write letters. Furthermore, the development of motor memory from handwriting improved memory retention, as tested a week after learning. 

So it seems like my dear mother’s incessant nagging when I was a child was perhaps for the better. Thanks, Mum! 


And thanks so much, Jon! 

What do you think about handwriting versus typing? Do you remember things more when you write them versus typing? 

Leave comments below. I'd love to hear that you think!

xo Danielle


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  • Jacqui on

    Thank you for confirming what I had hoped – my calligraphy work is not only satisfying on a creative level – but is helping keep my brain working well and stating healthy. It is a shame that handwriting is on the demise – keyboards have a lot to answer for – not the least of which is the illegible handwriting I find when a service person has to write sanything down for me. No wonder they prefer to say"I’ll email you the details"!

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