Doodling Helps Remembering

British scientists believe that doodling during boring lectures or long phone calls does not distract our attention, but rather helps us remember more of what we hear.


Scientists from the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth conducted a special experiment on the topic. Forty participants listened to a long and rather boring voice mail, which lasted about 2.5 minutes. Twenty participants were asked to shade geographic shapes, without worrying to be very accurate with the edges.

This type of activity is very similar to mechanical doodling, which was not mentioned to the participants in order to have an unbiased study. The participants also did not know that the experiment was testing their memory. Surprisingly enough, the doodlers were able to recall most of the names and small facts which were mentioned in the voice mail. On average, they recalled 7.5 names, while the control group averaged only at 5.8 names.

The key is that doodling replaces another process, namely daydreaming, to which people quickly give in when they are listening to boring information. Daydreaming distracts people from the subject, such that they remember much less information. Secondary activities, such as doodling, have positive effect on attention, since they replace the processes which block perception of information.

The results of the study were published in Applied Cognitive Psychology magazine.

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