What is it about?

Typing and handwriting are two different forms of written production as they allow different sensorimotor programming and execution of gestures. In the present study, we aimed at understanding if and how the differences in typing and handwriting gestures allow for different processing of the linguistic properties of words during the motor execution of these gestures. Basically, we verified how the linguistic properties interact with different chronometric measures collected during typing and handwriting dictation tasks. We analyzed the latency in starting to write/type a dictated word, the time intervals between consecutive letters, and the time necessary to write/type the whole dictated word. Thanks to the analysis of these measures we were able to detect patterns of acceleration or deceleration during motor execution of the two written production modalities depending on the different linguistic proprieties of words (i.e., lexicality, orthographic complexity, and length).

Featured Image

Why is it important?

We have shown that the sensorimotor peculiarities of typing and handwriting result in a different processing flow of linguistic information during the execution of words. In handwriting, the processing of linguistic information occurs progressively during writing gestures alternating all the analyzed chronometric measures. In typing, linguistic processing is anticipated before movement initiation (affecting latency in starting to type) and during the time intervals between initial letters. We conclude that these differences in linguistic processing unveil modality-specific mechanisms in preparing, maintaining, and retrieving in memory the to-be-written words.


Nowadays, with the large diffusion of technology, typing is so widespread that it has substituted handwriting in both social and working life; indeed, electronic typed texts have become indispensable for communication. Educational systems have been adapting to changes occurring in society adopting computerized tools and typing for didactic purposes. As a result, handwriting is not the unique written production modality that we are accustomed to since our youth. For these reasons, it is important today to understand how typing is changing our habits, not only at a social level but also at a fine-graded cognitive and linguistic level. In addition, it is important to integrate typing and handwriting research to unveil how their differences in sensorimotor processing and execution interact with cognitive and linguistic factors. I sincerely hope that our work would be helpful for understanding the deep differences between typing and handwriting.

Tania Cerni
Universita degli Studi di Trento

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The interaction of central and peripheral processes in typing and handwriting: A direct comparison., Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception & Performance, April 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xhp0001006.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page