Jul 17, 2018
“The doodle revolution” is upending old biases against the art of doodling, which current research indicates may be mindful – not mindless – scribbling when it comes to grasping new ideas, retaining information, and playing with creative thoughts.
Good news for doodlers: you were right all along. For eons, popular opinion thought that idle hands meant active minds – and that doodling was a distraction from learning. Not so, say more recent studies, which show that doodlers may actually have a cognitive advantage over their non-doodling peers in the learning environment.
“The Doodle Revolution”
A 2009 study by the University of Plymouth in England encouraged one group of participants to doodle while listening to a “rather dull” recording. Surprisingly, the doodlers remembered 29% more information than their non-doodling peers. Psychologist Jackie Andrade, who led the study, speculates that doodling requires cognitive effort, which in turn focuses the mind during listening and prevents listeners from daydreaming or getting lost in thought. Daydreaming, not doodling, places a high demand on cognitive processes that distracts from the content at hand.
The possibilities of doodling are so promising, Sunni Brown, consultant and author of the bestselling The Doodle Revolution, has worked with big companies including LinkedIn, Zappos, and Dell to improve employees’ organization and planning through doodling. Doodling, Brown argues, is an effective neurological tool to help us stay focused and grasp new concepts, as well as a cognitive “blank page” on which to play with creative thoughts and ideas.
When we doodle, our minds are given free rein to visualize and work through concepts. Evidence also suggests that doodling is powerful enough to change one’s state of mind and help one work through complex emotional states. In the academic environment, doodling may also be particularly effective in helping students retain information in science classes, which incorporate visual components such as images and graphs to explain concepts.
Is All Doodling Equal?
The downsides? While none of the studies are conclusive either way, doodling apparently doesn’t help in studying visuals. Which makes sense: visual aids work best in conceptualizing non-visual material, and could interfere with recalling other visual material.
Doodle for Tutors
While you can’t teach doodling, tutors can encourage their students to express themselves creatively through doodling – whether during a tutoring session, in the classroom, or in everyday life.
By reinforcing doodling’s positive benefits, tutors open up a range of possible exercises to study complex content through visualization and other lateral thinking techniques. When students seem disengaged from a lesson, draw them back in through constructive questions and tasks that allow them to engage with the content more directly.
The bottom line for students: Don’t dawdle. Doodle.