Doodle to avoid boredom induced dumbness

brain doodlingDo your lecture notes sometimes look like a piece of kindergarten art work, with umbrellas with fancy tassles, cute little houses with curtains and rows of flowers and worms wiggling across the page ?

I often feel quite proud of the artwork, but embarrassed at the fact that I have doodled, instead of focusing my full attention on what was being said.

This week’s Neurotechnology Tip encourages you to get the pencil out and scribble away, because contrary to what you might expect, it actually improves memory.

Big wig brain boffs memory test

The science debunking the idea that doodling is a sign of a wandering mind, comes from an experiment involving 40 members of a research panel of the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge.

The brain boffs were asked to listen to a two and a half minute tape recording, which droned on about a party, including where it was, who was attending etc.

Everyone was expected to remember the names of the people going to the party.

Brain boffs pencil tied

They were supplied with a piece of paper and a pen, and given one of two sets of instructions.

The first group were given the green light to doodle. The word was not actually mentioned, for fear that it might bias the results. So the instruction came in “code” i.e. they were asked to shade in shapes on the piece of paper, but neatness didn’t count.

The second group were just asked to write down the names.

Wiggling worms improved recall

Once the exercise was complete. The participants faced a spot test, but as with these types of tests, it was a little devious. In addition to remembering who was going to the party (eight people in total), they had to remember eight additional bits of information, which had been included in the story.

Doodlers remembered on average 7.5 names and places, compared to the non-doodlers, who could only manage 5.8 bits of information.

Why doodling is not a sign of a brain distracted

The researchers speculated that the improved memory recall was probably because the doodlers were less likely to actually tune out.

Doodling served to prevent day dreaming, rather than triggering it. By keeping focused on the somewhat boring task at hand, the brain actually retained more.

If you’re bored to tears – allow the pencil to dance across the page.

PS. The Neurotechnology Tip is okay with doodling which is scribbles that just happen, but if you set out to really draw something i.e. create a work of art. You’ve lost the memory advantage !

What does doodling do ?  Applied Cognitive Psychology (2010) 24(1) : 100-106. Jackie Andrade

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  1. By » Blog Archive » Round up 23 Aug – 26 Aug on September 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    [...] Doodle to avoid boredom induced dumbness [...]

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