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
Professor Dr. Matthias Schlesewsky
Department of English and Linguistics
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
D 55099 Mainz, GERMANY
phone: +49 6131 39-23478
More articles from Communications Media:
Peer-review science is taking off on Twitter, but who is tweeting what and why?
09.12.2013 | University of Montreal
UMass Amherst researcher quantifies the effectiveness of video ads
24.10.2013 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
A unique solar panel design made with a new ceramic material points the way to potentially providing sustainable power cheaper, more efficiently, and requiring less manufacturing time.
It also reaches a four-decade-old goal of discovering a bulk photovoltaic material that can harness energy from visible and infrared light, not just ultraviolet light.
Scaling up this new design from its tablet-size prototype to a full-size solar panel would be a large step toward making solar power affordable compared with ...
Atlantische Flohkrebse pflanzen sich jetzt auch in arktischen Gewässern fort
Biologen des Alfred-Wegener-Institutes, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung (AWI), haben zum ersten Mal nachgewiesen, dass sich in den arktischen Gewässern westlich Spitzbergens auch Flohkrebse aus dem wärmeren Atlantik fortpflanzen.
Diese überraschende Entdeckung deute auf einen möglichen Wandel der arktischen Zooplankton-Gemeinschaft hin, berichten die Wissenschaftler und Wissenschaftlerinnen in der Fachzeitschrift Marine Ecology ...
The molecular architecture of three key proteins and their complexes reveals how plants fine-tune their immune response to pathogens
Plants rarely get sick in their natural environment. When the threat of infection arises, a quick decision is made about the necessary countermeasures. The course is set by a protein which forms complexes with its partner proteins for this purpose.
Jane Parker from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding ...
Researchers studying speciation of butterfly orchids on the Azores have been startled to discover that the answer to a long-debated question "Do the islands support one species or two species?" is actually "three species".
Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, newly recognized following application of a battery of scientific techniques and reveling in a complex taxonomic history worthy of Sherlock Holmes, is arguably Europe's rarest orchid species. Under threat in its mountain-top retreat, the orchid urgently requires conservation recognition.
A lavishly illustrated publication, titled "Systematic revision of Platanthera in ...
Researchers from Brown University and the University of Hawaii have found some mineralogical surprises in the Moon's largest impact crater.
Data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper that flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter shows a diverse mineralogy in the subsurface of the giant South Pole Aitken basin.
The differing mineral signatures could be reflective of the minerals dredged up at the time of the giant impact 4 billion years ago, ...
12.12.2013 | Life Sciences
12.12.2013 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2013 | Studies and Analyses
11.12.2013 | Event News
10.12.2013 | Event News
05.12.2013 | Event News