The Psychology of Paper

For decades, technology gurus have predicted the demise of paper and the advent of an electronic age of communication.  Electronic communications has definitely grown, just look at Facebook, My Space, Twitter and the World Wide Web in general.  But paper trail has not gone away and is anything but dead.   People still have an attachment to paper and this does not appear likely to change.

In August, 2006, a survey by Opinion Research Corporation found that sixty percent of the general public thought it was more stressful to read a 20-page document on a computer screen than it was to print it out.  In addition, sixty-five percent stated that they could not envision an office or home without paper in five years.  2011 is just around the corner and paper is still with us stronger than ever.

From a psychological perspective, people feel an attachment to paper because it is a tangible item they can permanently save in a specific location, states Dr. Gilda Carle.  “People feel more secure when they are dealing with paper, as opposed to electronic data.  They can touch paper, feel it, and move it where they need it to be.  This puts them in control of where their documents are at all times.  Sometimes there is peace of mind in being able to hand a colleague a document rather than worry about whether it will be received or not due to spam filters or email delays, she explains.

Some people cite environmental concerns as a reason to go paperless.   Yet electronic communication is not without its environmental drawbacks.  Computers and other hand-held electronic devises use electricity, have a definite carbon footprint and are not as easily recycled as paper.  But this is not to say that one should use paper indiscriminately.  By planning your document’s size to get the maximum number out of a sheet of paper or simply printing double-sided, you can reduce the amount of paper you use without eliminating the security and tangible pleasure you get by holding a printed piece of paper.