Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Doodling can help memory recall: research

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LONDON – Far from being a waste of time, doodling can make a boring presentation or speech easier to memorise, according to research published in Britain on Friday.

Scribbling is normally taken to signify boredom and a short attention span, but a new study at Plymouth University in southwest England has shown that doodling while listening actually helps memory recall.

Volunteers given a doodling task while listening to a dull telephone message were 29 percent better at remembering details than non-doodlers, the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology reported.

Forty participants were asked to listen to a two-and-a-half minute tape and note down the names of eight people discussing a party, as well as place names.

Half the volunteers were told to shade in shapes on a piece of paper at the same time, paying no attention to neatness.

Later all the participants were asked to recall the names of the eight party-goers and place names included in the test.

Doodlers remembered an average of 7.5 names of people and places while non-doodlers could only recall 5.8.

Professor Jackie Andrade, from the university, said: "If someone is doing a boring task, like listening to a dull telephone conversation, they may start to daydream."

"Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, like doodling, may be sufficient to stop daydreaming without affecting performance on the main task," he said.

"This study suggests that in everyday life doodling may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing."

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