Drawing Attention

Is doodling a form of  tuning out? A study by professor Jackie Andrade at the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth UK examined whether doodling hinders listening. 


“Doodling is a way of passing the time when bored by a lecture or telephone call. Does it improve or hinder attention to the primary task? To answer this question, 40 participants monitored a monotonous mock telephone message for the names of people coming to a party. Half of the group was randomly assigned to a doodling condition where they shaded printed shapes while listening to the telephone call. The doodling group performed better on the monitoring task and recalled 29% more information on a surprise memory test. Unlike many dual task situations, doodling while working can be beneficial. Future research could test whether doodling aids cognitive performance by reducing daydreaming.”  Journal of  Applied Cognitive Psychology (January 2010) John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Further thought
As a professor of illustration, I wonder if there are degrees of doodling. My students don’t tend to simply shade shapes. More likely they are creating beasts in their sketchbooks as I lecture… or drawing me as a beast. That takes concentration, and maybe, just maybe, they are drawn away from anything their teacher may be babbling about. 

Illustration by the late, great Saul Steinberg.


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