Why Don’t We Read So Well on Screen
University of Stavanger (12/11/08) Toft, Trond Egil
Reading on a computer screen creates more brain stress than reading the same text on paper, wrote the Center for Reading Research’s Anne Mangen, a professor at Norway’s University of Stavanger, in an article for the Journal of Reading Research.
In her article, “Digital fiction reading: Haptics and Immersion,” Mangen said that touching and turning physical pages enhances a person’s ability to absorb information, while reading on a computer disturbs that process.
Mangen says that reading on a screen causes a new form of mental orientation that causes the reader to lose the completeness, tranquility, and constituent parts of reading a physical text. Mangen believes that learning requires time and mental exertion that new media forms cannot provide.
Many people argue that children read less, and less well, than previous generations, but Mangen argues that even if young people do not read as many books as previous generations, it is still possible that they are actually reading more than before, as most of what they do on a computer or mobile device involves reading and writing in some manner.
However, she notes that some researchers believe that we obtain a greater and more thorough understanding from reading text on paper, as we are not distracted, even subconsciously, by the navigation bars and banners that appear in online and electronic content. She says the most important difference is that when a text becomes digital it loses its physical dimension, which is unique to printed text, and the reader loses a feeling of totality.