The Effects of Handwriting Experience on Literacy Learning

Robert W. Wiley, Brenda Rapp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research indicates that writing practice may be more beneficial than nonmotor practice for letter learning. Here, we report a training study comparing typing, visual, and writing learning conditions in adults (N = 42). We investigated the behavioral consequences of learning modality on literacy learning and evaluated the nature of the learned letter representations. Specifically, the study addressed three questions. First, are the benefits of handwriting practice due to motor learning per se or to other incidental factors? Second, do the benefits generalize to untrained tasks? And third, does handwriting practice lead to learning and strengthening only of motor representations or of other types of representations as well? Our results clearly show that handwriting compared with nonmotor practice produces faster learning and greater generalization to untrained tasks than previously reported. Furthermore, only handwriting practice leads to learning of both motor and amodal symbolic letter representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1086-1103
Number of pages18
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • handwriting
  • learning
  • letters
  • literacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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