The social web is almost by definition centered around the hyperlink. One of the attractions with blogging is the possibility to sprinkle hyperlinks all over the text. Is there a drawback? Oh yes, says Nicholas Carr:
Sometimes, they’re big distractions — we click on a link, then another, then another, and pretty soon we’ve forgotten what we’d started out to do or to read. Other times, they’re tiny distractions, little textual gnats buzzing around your head. Even if you don’t click on a link, your eyes notice it, and your frontal cortex has to fire up a bunch of neurons to decide whether to click or not. You may not notice the little extra cognitive load placed on your brain, but it’s there and it matters. People who read hypertext comprehend and learn less, studies show, than those who read the same material in printed form. The more links in a piece of writing, the bigger the hit on comprehension.
I don’t know which studies Carr is referring to, because he doesn’t hyperlink — but intuitively I think he’s right.
He adds that one of the remedies may be to put the links at the end of the text (like end notes in an article).