Friday, October 3, 2008

Thinking with pens and pencils

[See correction below.]

Dutch psychologist Christof van Nimwegen has written a dissertation arguing that pens and pencils are crucial in the development of creativity and intelligence:

In "The Paradox of the guided user: assistance can be counter-effective," van Nimwegen asked two groups to perform the same tasks. The first was allowed use a computer; the second group only got a pen and pencil. The second group executed all tasks faster and performed substantially better. In addition, their solutions to complicated problems were more creative.
What's crucial of course is not ink or graphite (or paper!) but self-reliance—trusting one's mind rather than the machine.

Paper and pencil, not computer, boosts creativity (eNews 2.0)

[Correction, October 8, 2008: I received an e-mail from Christof van Nimwegen stating that he has never investigated the use of pens, pencils, and paper. The description of his work and the quotations attributed to him in the eNews piece thus appear to be wholly inaccurate.]

comments: 2

Crritic! said...

This reminds me of some interesting observations I remember reading years ago from the great graphic designer Milton Glaser. He said that the computer was a poor conceptualizing instrument, and that the pencil was far superior as a toll in the initial stages of problem solving.

I found an interview where he says: "There is no greater instrument for understanding the visual world than the hand and a pencil, because the idea of creating or recreating form produces a different neurological pattern than using a computer to find things."

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Sean!

I hope in light of recent events here that Milton Glaser really did say that. : )