Doodling Improves Memory, Reduces Daydreaming


We usually think of doodling as a sign that someone isn’t paying attention, but, according to a new study, doodling actually improves memory recall. It’s good news for celebrity doodlers and bored office workers alike.

For the study, published today in Applied Cognitive Psychology 40 volunteers were asked to listen to a boring two and a half minute phone message that gave the names of several people and places, reports EurekAlert. Half of the participants were asked to shade in shapes without paying attention to neatness while they were listening, and the other half were not. After the test, they were asked to write down the names and places that were mentioned in the message.

The doodlers recalled on average 7.5 names of people and places, while non-doodlers only recalled 5.8 items. Lead researcher Dr. Jackie Andrade, University of Plymouth in England explaines in The Guardian :

If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream … Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task.

Andrade told Newsweek that she was inspired to do the study because she was interested in daydreaming. She said:

When you have something really boring to do in a laboratory, you aren’t just doing that task-you are thinking about shopping, picking the kids up from school, what you’re going to have for tea. We don’t usually take those things into account. Daydreaming takes up a lot of mental energy and can be distracting. I had the idea that maybe some small, simple task would catch just enough energy to keep you focused on the [main] task at hand, and though it wouldn’t make the task you’re doing less boring, it could help you focus.

The study was well timed, as today is National Doodle Day in the U.K., an event created as a fun way to raise money for people affected by epilepsy and neurofibromatosis. Celebrities including Gillian Anderson, Ben Kingsley, and Ricky Gervais, have submitted their doodles to be auctioned on eBay to benefit the charity. There is also a U.S. National Doodle Day on May 7th to raise money for people affected with neurofibromatosis. The sketch above was submitted by then-Senator Barack Obama last year. Here’s the work of a few extremely focused celebrity doodlers being auctioned on the charity’s website this year:

Candice Bergen:

Ellen DeGeneres:

David Duchovny:

Do Doodle: Research Shows Doodling Can Help Memory Recall [EurekAlert]
Doodling Should Be Encouraged In Boring Meetings, Claims Psychologist [The Guardian]
Doodle Zone [Newsweek]
UK National Doodle Day
USA National Doodle Day

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