Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Older people find it easier to read a text from a tablet PC than a printed book

Joint study conducted by the universities of Mainz, Göttingen, and Marburg reveals disparity between subjective perception and measures of reading speed / brain activity

Reading electronic books is no more effortful for the brain than reading traditional paper books. To the contrary: Older people actually benefit from reading from a tablet PC. This is the conclusion reached by a study of reading performance among participants from different age groups that was undertaken under by researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany in collaboration with the universities of Göttingen and Marburg.

"There is a widely-held belief that it is more difficult to read from a digital device and that people retain less of what they read in this case," explains Dr. Franziska Kretzschmar of the Department of English and Linguistics at Mainz University. "Our study has shown that older people can actually read better from tablet PCs, likely because of the higher visual contrast."

Electronic books have become ever more popular in recent years, particularly in English-speaking countries, where the sales figures for e-books are outstripping those for conventional printed books. German readers are somewhat more skeptical when it comes to digital texts. Sales of e-books in Germany made up only about one percent of all book sales in 2011 and, when asked about their favorite reading medium, most Germans still tend to vote in favor of printed books rather than e-books. This may, in part, be attributable to a general distrust of new technologies.

The 56 test participants who took part in the study found reading on paper to be more pleasant and claimed that it was easier than reading on digital devices. However, recordings made during the study showed that this view, shared equally by both the younger and older participants, did not correlate with analyses of eye movements and brain wave patterns. Participants in the age range of 66 to 77 years showed faster reading speeds and less brain activity when reading from a tablet PC compared with a printed book and also when compared with an e-ink reader, such as the Kindle. "The cognitive effort required by older to read from a tablet PC was less than that required to read from an e-ink reader or paper pages. This is clearly confirmed by our observations of their eye movements while reading and the results of simultaneous measurements of brain activity," said Kretzschmar. This reduction of cognitive and neural effort may be attributable to the better contrast provided by the background lighting on a tablet computer, which aids letter and word recognition and has an impact even on the highest levels of language processing. However, there was no comparable effect among younger participants in the age range of 21 to 34 years. The results for all three reading media were identical in this cohort. Importantly, regardless of whether the participants were young or old, reading comprehension was the same for all three media in the two groups.

The findings thus demonstrate that people's subjective perception of reading on digital devices does not coincide with the actual cognitive and neuronal effort that needs to be invested in information processing while reading from them, as the researchers from Mainz, Göttingen, and Marburg conclude in an article published in PLOS ONE. The existence of this subjective preference for paper texts may be attributable, at least in part, to the high status afforded to traditional, printed books as part of our cultural heritage.

Franziska Kretzschmar et al.
Subjective impressions do not mirror online reading effort:
Concurrent EEG-eyetracking evidence from the reading of books and digital media
PLOS ONE, February 2013
Further information:
Professor Dr. Matthias Schlesewsky
General Linguistics
Department of English and Linguistics
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
D 55099 Mainz, GERMANY
phone: +49 6131 39-23478

Petra Giegerich | idw
Further information:

More articles from Communications Media:

nachricht High Number of Science Enthusiasts in Switzerland
05.02.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Between filter bubbles, uneven visibility and transnationality
06.12.2017 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF

All articles from Communications Media >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>