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Does Doodling Improve Your Memory?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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In early 2009, those people who have always doodled in meetings, while on the phone or in classes got to collectively say, "Told you so," as a study was published in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology. The study, led by Jackie Andrade, evaluated whether doodling could actually increase memory or cognitive ability. Though this study used a small sample group, only 40 participants, headlines across the world exalted the benefits of doodling as a memory saver.

What Andrade's study did find was that people allowed to doodle while listening to phone calls had about 29% greater memory retention than those in a "non-doodling" control group. Since the study's publication, the results have been used to suggest that doodling in classes or meetings could improve focus and increase retention of material. Though the study did not test this theory, Andrade believes that more focused activity such as drawing something purposefully with lots of concentration or texting would likely have an opposite affect and lead to less material retention.

There are some analyses of Andrade's study that don't automatically jump on the "doodling" bandwagon. For instance it's pointed out that sample size was small, and the study would require replication in order to see if results are really proven. Another thing that wasn't tested was the degree to which random drawing might be combined with daydreaming, and whether people who daydreamed suffered more or less focus or memory ability. For those naysayers, doodling may be viewed as not necessarily harmful to memory, but also not necessarily of great benefit. Still many who routinely sketch or draw unpurposefully during boring lectures feel quite justified in keeping up with the practice.

There are similar studies that do show certain things may help improve focus and memory. Research in 2007 suggest that students who chew gum while taking tests actually improve their test scores by about 5%. For teachers who command complete focus and allow neither gum chewing nor doodling, they may actually be lowering their students' performance ability, though it is again hard to extrapolate these conclusions from just a few studies.

There is one way in which doodling can definitely improve memory of a certain sort. At the end of February each year, there is National Doodle Day. This is a charitable event meant to shed light on the difficult diseases of epilepsy and neurofibromatosis. Many celebrities compose doodles on this day, which are then printed and sold as various media to raise money for awareness of these diseases and to directly help those who suffer from them. Individuals and groups can enter too, and popular doodles are chosen to be reprinted. In this respect, maintaining memory through random drawings about devastating illnesses serves a very important purpose.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments
By Atmutairi — On Mar 03, 2010

I just want to say i disagree with you because when i doodle in the lecture or in a meeting I always don't get benefit from it.

By anon68050 — On Feb 28, 2010

I doodle whenever I am nervous and that gets me to relax and approach my task with confidence.

By bluefire — On Feb 26, 2010

I'm thinking that bestcity may have a very good point! It certainly seems possible. On the other hand, this "study" is obviously only a preamble of a sort and cannot be taken to apply to test taking or meeting yet since more studies need to be done specifically in the areas of test-taking and meetings - one study about retention during phone calls just doesn't cut it.

Also, I'd like to know more about the kind of doodling done and what level of concentration is involved in the doodling itself, as in just mindless doodling, unconscious doodling, etc.? Since each person doodles differently, I think the evaluation of such doodling is going to be challenging to say the least!

By anon67554 — On Feb 25, 2010

I always doodle in lecture class. I come up with some really good ideas for further art projects to concentrate on. However the content of whatever lecture it was is either remembered or lost independently (I feel) of the particular doodle.

By anon67499 — On Feb 25, 2010

When I am at work i chew gum. it makes me relax at my work and releases pressure!

By bestcity — On Nov 24, 2009

What I found myself is that when taking tests and chewing gum I am able to perform better.

My explanation is that chewing gum releases some of the tension, so less energy is being wasted, therefore it is somewhat easier to focus.

The same might be true with doodling, it simply helps to focus.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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