Among digital natives, performing a task on a screen instead of on paper can lead to a greater focus on concrete details, but less ability to infer meaning or understand the big picture, experiments detailed in the Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems suggest.
Researchers asked frequent tablet and smartphone users in their early 20s to perform a series of tasks—reading a short story about a family, taking a personality survey, and reviewing a table of car-model specifications to recommend the best model—either on paper or on a screen with no interactive features.
For all tasks, those who read on paper performed significantly more accurately on questions of inferences and deeper comprehension. Those who read on screens recalled more concrete facts.
A version of this article appeared in the May 18, 2016 edition of Education Week as Digital Reading