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    Doodling - Good For Our Memory

    By Margarita Nahapetyan

    British researchers found that doodling actually helps our memory and improves concentration. While it seems that people who doodle are not paying attention to a boring phone conversation or a lecture, the science proves otherwise.

    Doodling is an unfocused drawing made by people when their attention is being otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings which can have a meaning, different shapes and forms that can be also irregular. Doodling is primarily made by young generation all over the world, in most cases by students. More often the activity takes place during long boring lectures or classes when the students start losing interest in the subject. Doodling can also be made while talking on the phone for a long period of time if a pen and paper are available at hand.

    For a study's experiment, the scientists involved 40 people and asked them to listen to a two-and-a-half-minute phone voice mail. In the message, the party's host talked about someone's cat that got sick; she also said something about her kitchen being re-decorated, talked about the weather, someone's new house in Colchester and a vacation in Edinburgh that involved museums and rain. In between, she mentioned eight names of places and eight people who were definitely coming to a 21st birthday party. From the recording, the study participants had to write down only the names of the people who were going to attend the party.

    While listening to the message, half of the subjects were told to simultaneously shade in geometric shapes that were printed on a piece of paper and were asked not to worry about being quick or neat about it. The fact that they were participating in a memory test, was never mentioned to them. Another half of the participants were given no instructions about doodling.

    When the message finished to play, the papers were handled in and all volunteers were asked to recall the eight names of those attending the party. As a result, participants who were asked to doodle, were able to remember, on average, 7.5 names and places (out of 16), which is 29 per cent more compared to 5.8 names written down by those who didn't doodle.

    So the question is - why does doodle help our memory? According to the lead researcher of the study, Professor Jackie Andrade, of the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, when a person is in the middle of some boring task, he or she may start daydreaming which is, in general, very distracting, and leads to a poor performance. Daydreaming makes a person absentminded and pointless, and actually requires a lot of processing power from the brain.

    On the contrary, doodling, in her opinion, might be helpful in preventing daydreaming without any negative consequences for the main task. It requires very few executive resources but just enough cognitive effort in order to keep you away from daydreaming. Doodling pushes the brain to expend just that much energy that is enough to prevent the daydreaming but not so much that a person starts losing concentration and attention.

    Professor Andrade said that in psychology, in order to block a particular mental process, a second task is often used when memory or attention are being tested. "If that process is important for the main cognitive task, then performance will be impaired. My research shows that beneficial effects of secondary tasks, such as doodling, on concentration may offset the effects of selective blockade," she concluded.

    The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.

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