Thursday, November 2, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Does Doodling Improve Memory?

Do you have hands? Excellent. That's a good start. Can you hold a pencil? Great. If you have a sketchbook, open it and start by making a line, a mark, wherever. Doodle. 
--Chris Riddell  

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN 2010

In case you don't know, I'm a compulsive doodler. I doodled in school. I doodled in college. I doodle in meetings. If you don't know this about me, well, now you know.

So it peaked my interest when I saw an article this week in one of my eNewsletters with the title, "Does Doodling Improve Your Memory?" The article cited a study by Jackie Andrade who attempted to scientifically determine the relationship between doodling and cognitive ability.

A quick Google search identified other articles that referenced the same 2009 study. A Time magazine article titled Doodling Helps You Pay Attention begins like this.

A lot of people hate doodlers, those who idly scribble during meetings (or classes or trials or whatever). Most people also hate that other closely related species: the fidgeter, who spins pens or reorders papers or plays with his phone during meetings. (I stand guilty as charged. On occasion, I have also been known to whisper.) We doodlers, fidgeters and whisperers always get the same jokey, passive-aggressive line from the authority figure at the front of the room: "I'm sorry, are we bothering you?" How droll. But the underlying message is clear: Pay attention.

But I've never stopped fidgeting, and I've always thought I walked out of meetings remembering all the relevant parts. Now I have proof. In a delightful new study, which will be published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that doodlers actually remember more than nondoodlers when asked to retain tediously delivered information, like, say, during a boring meeting or a lecture.

Doodles attributed to the Queen of Prussia.. 
My observation is that the pace of our mental activity outraces the pace of most meetings, school lectures, etc. According to this research, doodling is a mechanism for keeping us engaged inside the room, lest we daydream and mentally drift off to a Caribbean island in our minds. Andrade states that people may doodle as a strategy to help them concentrate, but I don't recall ever thinking this was a strategy of any kind. It's just always been part of what I am, I think. And frankly, if I don't monitor it, I can also drift away from the meeting not through daydreaming but through getting absorbed in my designs, which have sometimes been far more interesting than the meeting I was in.

Do you doodle? What's your take on doodling? Do you make boxes, squares, or zigzags? Or do you draw organic shapes like I do?

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Addendum 2017
There is another tried and true way to improve memory. Take good notes. Note-taking teaches you how to discern what is important and what is not. And s the saying goes, "The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory." Yes, this blog post was originally written in an attempt to defend my propensity for doodling. Doodling, however, should not be considered an alternative to note-taking. 

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