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Doodle to Do Well

November 25th, 2013 9 comments

Ms. Barry’s short purple curls bounced whenever she yelled at me to pay attention. My elementary school years were filled with crayon and graphite tornadoes, spirals,  and flowers in the margins of my math-boxes. However, when work got serious in fifth grade, Ms. Barry would take away my pencil when she felt that I was not paying attention.

Four years after my fifth grade graduation, Jackie Andrade of University of Plymouth, UK found that doodling while listening to dull material could actually help listeners pay attention (2009). In her experiment, the researchers asked participants who had just completed another experiment if they would stay to listen to an “answering machine recording” that listed names of people attending a birthday party. Half of the participants listening shaded in printed shapes. At the end of the study, the participants were asked to remember as many of the eight people coming to the party as they could. The participants that had not shaded shapes were able to remember on average about 5.8 out of the possible eight names. Those who had shaded shapes were able to remember about 7.5 out of the possible eight names. This means that those doodling were significantly better at remembering the names of who were coming to the party. Although the research did not measure boredom or daydreaming, the researcher believed doodling acted as a tool to prevent daydreaming, thereby allowing the participants to be more attentive to the material they were hearing.

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