I was just reading an article recently written that in this digital age the art of handwriting is being lost. The article continues to say that reading and writing go completely hand and hand so if we lose the ability to write do we therefore lose the ability to read? Apparently its worse, a loss of motor skills as we age.
Technology and Cognitive Functions
Surely this is a misunderstanding of the role reading plays in our lives. I think personally we read more now than ever, albeit it facebook status’, online reports, trash memes etc. There are most certainly links between reading and writing, you learn to read as you begin to write, you also learn to spell this way. “Your ability to read is intrinsically related to your ability to write. There’s a symbiotic relationship between these different functions,” says Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Leeds, Mark Mon-Williams.
“When you write a particular letter, the shape of that letter will actually feed into the next letter you prepare to write, so it’s more likely you remember a motor pattern. This type of physical, spatial association is less pronounced on a typewriter. So the process of actually writing words seems to be intrinsically linked with how we represent words.
“Cognitive skills have traditionally been thought of as an output of the body but, increasingly, what we have realised over the last couple of decades is that, unsurprisingly, these things are completely intertwined: our cognitive abilities are part-and-parcel of our abilities to interact with our environment,” says Mon-Williams.
“We know of the term, ‘use it or lose it,’ and we know that as people get older it’s important they keep their skill base going,” says Mon-Williams. “A lot of the evidence suggests that this physical enactment of writing helps your cognitive functions. So I’d say definitely keep that skill going, especially as you get older.”
So there are two points in our lives where losing the art of handwriting will be affected. The beginning when we are learning the basics and at the end of our lives where repetition and exercise is key to keeping our motor skills running and on form.
It’s not just the basic idea that if you stop to write you’ll forget how to read, its the actual firing up of the cognitive functions that keeps the brain firing on all cylinders. The physical act of holding a pen to paper and drawing the shapes of the letters sharpens the mind. That’s what Mon Williams appears to be saying.
So there we have it, those of us who have downed tools and are reliant entirely on keyboards and touch sensitive note pads beware we’re likely to lose those motor skills later on in life.
Catch up with the next blog where I have a think on what this means for our children.