AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Stop Taking Notes

Put down your pencils. Stop taking notes. Scientists have recently proven that you are less likely to remember something once you write it down. Now you all have scientific explanations for not bringing a backpack to school. Scientists began by researching the effects of technology on our memories. Unsurprisingly, they concluded that people who saved information on the computer were less likely to remember it than those who were told the facts verbally. More of this study can be seen in the article “Poor Memory, Blame Google”. It brings up a larger concern; what will the mental capacities of our society come to in our increasingly technological age? This brought Professor Susan Greenfield to investigate the affects of all information processing tactics and their effect on human memory.

She began with the most simple and popular of memory methods, note taking. They split a population of undergraduate students into 2 groups, one that took notes and one that relied on straight memory. They showed them pairs of cards and instructed them to memorize the location. One group wrote it down and the other did not. After the study time, the note-taking group had their notes taken away and the full group was tested on the cards’ location. Surprisingly, the note-taking group performed very poorly in the exercise, far underperforming the memory group.

The scientists concluding that by taking notes, the students were relying on an external form of storage rather than their own synapses. So keep those pencils down, your memory will thank you.

Original Article:

Contrary Study:

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  1. Vicky

    I am sorry but I think the research design is problematic. What’s the sample size? Variety of activities should be tested, in order to conclude whether note taking helps or not; if it helps, in what type of learning or subjects? The research design only tested the short-term memory, however, school performance does not only rely on short-term memory. In fact, most of the time, it is the long-term memory that plays a more important role in students’ understanding, and performance. Note-taking will definitely help students revise, and reinforce what they have learned in class. I don’t think it is convincing to draw an conclusion based on such a research and to generate it to school. More importantly, learners have different learning styles. Some students rely more on visual clues, while others respond better to sound or others. Teachers need independent thinking to decide whether note taking help your subject or not.

  2. rackolam

    Interesting article Gigabytes. It never occurred to me that taking notes may actually be detrimental to my recollection of a subject. It’s troubling to see our generation become more and more technology reliant. This also relates to studies suggesting that reading paper books keeps your focus a lot better than kindle books, or other electronic reading devices: ( Some of us may want to study traditionally through listening now.

  3. nyrsoccer

    Shocking considering not too long ago scientists came out with studies that writing down information is the best way to remember. Previously it was believed that writing down (such as making note cards) forces the brain the recognize and process what it written down. However this new study seems to make similar sense. Sometimes it is easier to just listen and absorb not write down everything mindlessly. I am curious however as whether writing down helps in the longer term when its not fresh in the minds of the students who didn’t write anything down.

  4. sgagocytosis

    Sorry, Gigabytes***!

  5. sgagocytosis

    Interesting article, Gigbytes! I’ve always thought that physically writing down information with a pencil actually helps you remember it more. I’ve been using that technique all throughout high school! Woops. Now I know I should focus more on what the teacher is saying rather than trying to write it down.
    I read the contrary study (
    you posted along with your article. It’s interesting to see how two completely different arguments for the same topic can both be correct. Maybe the process of writing things down works better for some than for others? It might all just depend on that person’s brain.

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