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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.