Doodling is often frowned upon in meetings and classrooms, but now scientists say it might help you remember details in an otherwise boring presentation. The back-of-the-envelope speculation as to why? Doodlers don't daydream as much.
Forty test subjects — all rather smart folks (they are members of the research panel of the Medical Research Council's Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge) — were made to listen to a dull phone message. It was 2.5 minutes long and contained names of people and places.
((ImgTag||right|null|null|null|false))The half who were asked to doodle during the message had 29 percent better recall than the non-doodlers.
Beforehand, they were all told to listen for names of people going to a party. Afterward, they were asked to write eight party-goers names down, along with eight place names that had been on the message. The doodlers recalled on average 7.5 names of people and places compared to only 5.8 by the non-doodlers.
"If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream," said University of Plymouth psychology professor Jackie Andrade. "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."
The findings are detailed in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.
"This study suggests that in everyday life doodling may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing," Andrade said.
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