Infographics f Reuben Yonatan hDecember 11, 2017

The Science Behind Your Doodles

It happens to most of us from time to time. It might be during a business meeting, a conference, or just while chatting on the phone. We doodle, we draw, we unconsciously create a picture that may be completely irrelevant to the task at hand. While many may perceive doodling or drawing as an inane or pointless exercise, author and doodling evangelist Sunni Brown sees sketching as a way to improve comprehension and get the creative juices flowing. Research that dates back nearly a century backs up Brown’s claim that doodling, drawing and engaging in artistic activities is good for our memories, our mental health and improving job performance. For example, a 2016 review of the available literature on doodling might actually reveal significant insights about the functioning of the subconscious mind, as well as aid one’s memory and recall performance. Further, there is no particular “type” of person who is prone to doodling. A master’s thesis survey this year of “Who Doodles and Why?” found that those employed in computer-related industries are as likely to doodle as someone who identifies with the arts. You can draw your own conclusions from the additional studies below. Doodling or drawing doesn’t have to be an individual effort. A study in the Journal of Knowledge Management concluded that teams could benefit in several ways using a “low-tech” approach with pen and paper. The researchers said that sketching with a team “facilitates interaction and turn‐taking, increases vividness and memorability, and allows for an authentic and personal follow‐up documentation.” An essay published in the Lancet sums up some of the possible benefits of doodling and drawing: “[D]oodles may prove to be a unique and hitherto untapped resource for investigating certain aspects of brain function, and functional imaging studies of surrogate doodling, imagining doodling, and perhaps serendipitously even during doodling itself might provide new insights into the wandering mind in particular. And providing pencil and paper to the anxious, the distressed, and the disturbed might even have unexpected therapeutic benefits.” Brown would argue that today’s culture is fixated on verbal information, ignoring the various benefits bestowed by putting pen to paper. After all, there is a reason that they say: A picture is worth a thousand words.

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