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Does Doodling Help with Memory?

Those doodles that many people put down on paper when they’re bored may help to improve memory skills according to a new study. Find out why you may want to have a doodle pad handy at your next lecture or class.

Do you occasionally find yourself “zoning out” when listening to a boring speaker? Do you find yourself forgetting most of what was said during a class or lecture? This is an all too common problem for many people, but there may be a simple way to improve memory skills while retaining more of what was said at a meeting or lecture. An interesting study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology showed that doodling while listening to a speaker helps listeners retain more of what was said.

In this study, forty participants were asked to listen to a tape recorded message which included specific names and places. None of the participants knew they would be given a memory test. One group was encouraged to fill in shapes on a piece of paper, similar to doodling, while listening to the message while the others were told simply to listen. The results? The doodlers remembered more names and places than those who listened to the message without doodling.

How might doodling help to improve memory skills? Although it’s not clear exactly how doodling enhances recall, researchers believe that keeping the hands busy may keep the mind from wandering. In other words, doodling can improve concentration and focus. Plus, the act of doodling doesn’t seem to detract from the listening process since it’s a mindless activity, unlike the creation of a planned piece of artwork. If you find that information goes in one ear and out the other while you’re lost in a daydream, doodling can help to redirect you back to the present.

Another possible way doodling could help to improve memory skills is by promoting interaction with the environment. A previous study showed that learning and memory skills were significantly improved when students used hand gesturing while learning new math skills. Gesturing and doodling both involve some movement and interaction which could lead to better focus and attention.

Unfortunately, doodling can also be interpreted by others as a sign of boredom or a lack of interest in what’s being said. Despite the fact that it can help to improve memory skills, it’s not something you want to do when you’re at an important business meeting or listening to a speech made by your boss; but keeping a pad of paper and pencil handy for doodling has its benefits. Doodling may help you stay awake during a boring class or lecture while allowing you to retain more of what was said. Plus, you never know what unique artistic masterpieces you’ll create with that doodle pad and pencil.

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  1. Gijo George

    On July 9, 2009 at 4:18 am


    Excellent article. The fact that doodling turns a boring class into a artistic marvel is very encouraging.

  2. Daisy Peasblossom

    On July 9, 2009 at 11:02 am


    I should have a super memory then; I’ve doodled my way through myriad boring classes and meetings.

  3. rajeev bhargava

    On July 10, 2009 at 5:54 am


    another wonderful article. i find myself doodling from time to time, be it a small note or a reminder or a drawing. it’s interesting to find that research has been done on this. :)

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