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Three years ago the results from a psychological study by University of Plymouth were published about the effects of doodling on memory recall. The results from the study were astounding and broke many of the preconceived myths about the uselessness of doodling. Yet today, many people in the workforce look down on people who doodle.

“If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream,” said study researcher Professor Jackie Andrade, Ph.D., of the School of Psychology, University of Plymouth. “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.”

“In psychology, tests of memory or attention will often use a second task to selectively block a particular mental process. If that process is important for the main cognitive task then performance will be impaired. My research shows that beneficial effects of secondary tasks, such as doodling, on concentration may offset the effects of selective blockade,” added Andrade. “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.”

Wiley-Blackwell. “Do Doodle: Doodling Can Help Memory Recall.” ScienceDaily, 26 Feb. 2009. Web. 6 Feb. 2012.

I am not surprised that recent research on doodling has proven that it can assist in memory boost while participating in an activity that could easily lead to daydreaming. My daughter, Mari, has been practicing this for years with great success. She struggled academically in school but found out first-hand that she could recall more details from a lecture if she would combine notes and doodles.

While in high school, she looked forward to lectures because her best artistic ideas would spring from these opportunities. She often showed me her notebook where she would take notes, and doodle on the side. The more she doodled the better she recalled the lectures.

I also remember attending a right-brain seminar about 12 years ago, where my colleague, now the high school principal, sat and doodled for hours, drawing complex geometric-like mazes that were works of art. I clearly remember talking to her about her compulsion to doodle during lectures and she told me that she could focus better when she doodled than when she didn’t. When I watched this TedTalk I thought of her.

Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite! TedTalk http://www.ted.com/talks/sunni_brown.html

I have never doodled too much, but I do find that taking notes, or making outlines while listening to lectures help me to process what is being said. But I also nave never viewed doodling as a waste of time, but rather as a tool to help focus. I wish I had taken up doodling when I was young. Maybe that would have helped me more while I was in school during class lectures. I wonder. . . is it too late to start?

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