Paper - loved by human senses

Press Release 5.2.2015 11:00 EET

Text: Helen Moster; Photography: UPM

You can feel and smell paper. You can hear it when the pages of a newspaper are turned. These sensations aid your memory. In the current world of state-of-the-art technology, we increasingly need something to touch: paper.

Believe it or not, the type of media and the reading method matter. Different media invoke different kinds of sensations, and the more senses triggered, the better the human memory works. You can remember a card you got from a friend so well because when you read it, you used not only your sight but also your sense of touch and perhaps even your sense of smell.

You are less likely to remember the news you read this morning, particularly if you read it on a screen. This is because you only used one of your senses – sight. What’s more, you didn’t read the news in the same way that you read the card: you quickly skimmed through the headlines and maybe even only read the first paragraph of each article while replying to your most urgent e-mails, logging into your intranet and posting the results of last night’s game on Facebook. Instead of focusing your attention on one thing, reading and working become combined.

Paper haptics

Touch is the elixir of life

The world has undergone a digital revolution but people have not. People are still what we call “multi-sensory beings.”

“The more digitalised our world becomes, the more we long to be touched,” says Sebastian Haupt, a consumer psychologist, who works as a consultant for Touchmore, a German agency specialising in haptic sales promotion.

The media reach immediately increases when a person can actually pick up the product being sold. “Messages backed up by haptics will be noticed,” Haupt points out. “They appeal to people’s curiosity and playfulness.”

Most successful advertisers use a variety of media. Studies show that the most efficient advertising campaigns reach out to customers by phone, e-mail and letter.

One of the benefits of printed products is that they do not evoke subconscious resistance. People can choose when they open and read them, leading them to focus on what they are reading. At the same time, the act of touching the paper sends signals to the brain that support the contents of the letter. People read both consciously and unconsciously.

Haupt says that a more technological world only serves to make our sensory experiences poorer. The less opportunities we have to use our senses, the more we want to use them.

“The mind can consciously process 40 bytes per second, but in the same period of time, the subconscious can process around 11 million bytes. Your subconscious needs to be convinced of the magazine’s high quality,” Haupt explains.

In addition to many other factors, the quality, weight and texture of the paper create an overall impression of reliability. Indeed, a test revealed that a person seemed more trustworthy when his CV had been presented on heavier paper rather than on lighter weight paper.

After optics, haptics is the second most important sense in influencing consumers' purchasing decisions as the sense of touch is our reality sense. We believe what we feel.


Paper enables better understanding

Printed media enables better understanding

Together with French researcher Jean-Luc Velay, Anne Mangen of the Reading Centre of the University of Stavanger studied the differences between students reading a traditional book and students reading an eBook on a Kindle. Studies show that digital information will disappear from people’s memory faster than information they read on paper. Furthermore, people understand text better when they read it on paper. Why is this?

“One obvious difference between the screen of a computer and the paper of a book is that paper is a concrete material. You can feel the weight, structure and thickness of the book or magazine in your hands. You can see where the book starts and where it ends. You can quickly flick the pages,” Mangen explains.

Such an immediate experience offers the reader a “mental map” of the whole.
“It may be less challenging for the human brain when the text is fixed on paper and the sense of vision is aided by the tactile feedback provided by the substance of the paper,” Mangen says.

A screen seems to be well-suited to fast, cursory reading, while paper is a better alternative if you are reading longer texts or documents. Anne Mangen says that teachers should not try to eradicate paper as a result of a blind faith in digital technology.

Read the complete article with many interesting examples of successful marketing campaigns that rely on print media in Biofore 3/2014.