Doodling Is Good For Your Brain

by DavalosMcCormack on November 23, 2009

Hands up anyone who whiled away a really boring time at school doodling on a pad? Come on, I bet there isn’t one person who didn’t spend at least one chemistry or physics or comparative literature class making odd sketches in their notebook.

Well now it turns out that you weren’t just wasting time, you were actually harnessing the power of your brain to improve your recall of the material that you were listening to. Of course if you really weren’t listening to the teacher but were thinking of that dreamy girl or boy in your gym class then this doesn’t matter. But for the rest of you – and I’m guessing that’s a much diminished number – here’s the reason why.

A study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that doodling could help improve your memory.

Researchers at the University of Plymouth in England made 40 people listen to a 2.5 minute recorded message to identify the names of people attending a party.

Half the group were told to doodle while listening to the message and writing down the names of the party goers, the other half were told to just write down the names. None of them knew what the purpose of the test was or that it was a memory test.

Afterward the participants were all asked to try and recall the eight names of the people going to the party. The group that was asked to doodle did almost 30 percent better at recalling names than the group that didn’t doodle.

The researchers are not sure why this is so but speculate that doodling in an idle way (in this case just shading in shapes on the paper) may stop them daydreaming about other things and so help them focus more closely on the matter at hand.

So, next time someone sees you doodling – whether at school or at work – tell them you aren’t goofing off, in fact, quite the opposite.

Don’t you love how the brain works. Or at least how we think it works. Or at least how we think today that it works. Things that we think are just idle thoughts, lazy ways of doing things may actually be terribly important mechanisms for our brains in terms of storing knowledge and memories.

But don’t get too caught up in it. Chances are we’ll discover something else tomorrow that will completely contradict what we thought we knew for certain.

That’s the beauty of all this. We know that 30 percent of what we know is rubbish. We just don’t know which 30 percent! Reassuring ain’t it!

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