Yes, I’m a doodler. I doodle while talking on the phone, during meetings, in class lectures – just about any time I’m sitting captive listening to something and have one hand free. My doodles aren’t anything special – I doubt that I’ll see my class notes hanging in an art gallery some day. I mostly confine my doodles to the margins, so go for things that can be narrowly drawn. Arrows, small checkerboards, flowering vines, curlicues, and repeated borders. Maybe an occasional tree, stick figure, or ocean wave. I guess by keeping them in the margin I hope that no one will see them or that I can hastily cover them up if someone looks my way. Because, in the past, doodlers were considered people who WERE NOT PAYING ATTENTION! Doodlers were (gasp) daydreaming instead of listening. How could they? In my Catholic grade school, extreme doodlers might have been sent to the principal’s office, to sit with the same juvenile delinquents who talked during church, skipped school and smoked behind the building. Yep, right up there with those kids.
But no more. A recent study has shown that doodling actually helps people pay
attention while listening. Yes, the doodlers should be applauded for putting forth extra effort to retain every nugget of the riveting presentation. Doodlers aren’t doodling to goof off – they’re enabling enhanced retainment.
The study I’m citing is by Jackie Andrade, a cognitive psychologist in the UK. In Andrade’s study, subjects listened to a long, boring phone message. The subjects who were given a doodling task to complete while listening to the message fared 29% better than the control group in retaining the details of the message. Andrade posits that doodling provides enough concentration activity in the brain to prevent the hearer from slipping off into daydreaming when confronted with lengthy or boring listening tasks. Doodling keeps the listener on track by preventing daydreaming, which is a cognitively more demanding activity.
Finally, I can stop hiding my doodling. After all, I’m only doing it to improve my concentration.