Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention

By | March 4, 2009

DoodlingA lot of people hate doodlers those who idly scribble during meetings or classes or trials or whatever . Most people also hate that other closely related species the fidgeter who spins pens or reorders papers or plays with his phone during meetings. I stand guilty as charged. On occasion I have also been known to whisper. We doodlers fidgeters and whisperers always get the same jokey passive-aggressive line from the authority figure at the front of the room: “I m sorry are we bothering you ” How droll. But the underlying message is clear: Pay attention.

But I ve never stopped fidgeting and I ve always thought I walked out of meetings remembering all the relevant parts. Now I have proof.

In a delightful new study which will be published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that doodlers actually remember more than nondoodlers when asked to retain tediously delivered information like say during a boring meeting or a lecture.  …

Doodling, …  requires very few executive resources but just enough cognitive effort to keep you from daydreaming, which — if unchecked — will jump-start activity in cortical networks that will keep you from remembering what’s going on. Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention.

So the next time you’re doodling during a meeting — or twirling a pencil or checking the underside of the table for gum — and you hear that familiar admonition (“Are we bothering you?”), you can tell the boss with confidence that you’ve been paying attention to every word.

via Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention – TIME.

Bingo. I’m constantly writing in meetings, now I know why. I still get away with it in large meetings but for smaller ones I’ve been told not to do it, that it is distracting. I’m flexible, so I’ve changed the habit, but this was a very hard adjustment to make.  Note taking is so natural for me that having to stop was like someone demanding that I write only with my non preferred hand.  As I was adjusting my information processing style, being forced to not take notes at first resulted in my forgetting some details during meetings, which stressed me out.  Anyway, this is a very interesting study.

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