Huffydoodles (Photo: Huffygirl)

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

More Huffydoodles (Photo: Huffygirl)

 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.


13 thoughts on “Doodlebugs

  1. I was a doodler too, although I was not so terrorized. I’m not sure why…it was either there wasn’t quite the same stigma attached to doodling in Canada, or my high grades lulled the teacher into a false sense of security.

    One time my doodling did get me into trouble. I think the teacher was a little off her rocker. It was in Grade 3. I was doodling as usual, and the teacher came down the aisle to my desk and demanded to see what I was drawing. I showed her, and she marched me right to the principle’s office. She claimed I was drawing “dirty” pictures. I was 8 years old. I didn’t even know what a dirty picture was. Sadly, my mom backed the teacher up…no, she didn’t think I was drawing dirty pictures but she said I should not have been doodling in class.

    I didn’t doodle for a LONG time after that…and nearly died of terminal boredom.

    • So Canadians are more tolerant and understanding of doodling. I guess I grew up in the wrong country. Maybe if you could go back and do over your childhood, you could grow up in a time when doodlers are accepted and allowed to ply their craft 🙂

      I actually had stopped doodling for a while too – once I got out of school I was attending meetings more than lectures. It’s easy to doodle in a large lecture and not get noticed, but hard to do at a small meeting.

      Many peoplen now a days have probably traded doodling during meetings for texting. The disadvantage is that texting does not enhance comprehension.

  2. Doodling, huh? I’ll have to try that. Nice doodles, by the way. I think they would make a great art exhibit, after all, you’ve been honing your skills for some time now….

  3. Sorry, but doodling does not help my concentration. If I doodle I have to think about what I want to doodle and then I can’t think about what ever the speaker is speaking about. I really don’t understand how people can doodle and do something else at the same time. I guess my mind is single threaded.

    • No, really? 🙂 Perhaps doodling is harder for men, who tend to be more linear. I don’t really think when I doodle though. If you’re thinking, you might be overthinking it.

    • That’s the beauty of doodle Ann – they don’t have to look good. Sometimes I just draw arrows and checkerboards, and just about anyone can manage that. Try it.

      I’m wondering if doodling is going to be replaced by playing with one’s smart phone. The difference is, you can doodle without thinking and still pay attention to what is going on around you – with the phone you can’t.

  4. I’ve always been a doodler, too, and it’s never interfered with my recalling the material I was listening to. And I agree that it’s a mindless activity, not at all thought out as Hubby said above. In fact, sometimes I look at what I’ve drawn and can’t remember doing it.

    • My theory is that for some people, perhaps creative people, doodling is not work, so we can do it without interference of the thought process. For people who find any kind of drawing as work, I can see how it would require concentration and interfere with listening and retention. I don’t think of my doodling as art – it isn’t good. It’s probably akin to drawing a circle over and over – very little thought required.

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