Doodling: Yet Another Unexpected Brain Boost!

October 22, 2009 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

Doodle! Image by ba1969 on Stock.Xchng We’ve all done it… scribbled absently in the margins of a book, on  backs of envelopes, even on our hands. Doodling has long been assumed to be evidence of boredom, daydreaming and distraction, but new evidence suggests that it may actually help the brain be able to focus, and provide our brain functions with an extra boost of attention.

Over at Plymouth University, 40 people were asked to listen to a two and a half minute recorded phone call – a rather dull list of names and places.  Afterwards, they were asked to write down as many of them as they could remember.

While they listened to their names, half of the participants were asked to shade in shapes on a piece of paper, a simple form of doodling, and surprise surprise!!  They remembered more names than the non-doodlers –  29% more.  That’s quite a difference.

Why such a big difference? Experts think that doodling (a low energy activity) keeps the brain engaged, and prevents daydreaming (which requires more of the brains attention).   As it turns out, a bored brain is anything but quiet – brain scans reveal a high level of activity when people are bored.  That’s because the brain is built to process information, and when there isn’t much outside information to process, it starts generating internal information – daydreaming.

Daydreaming is a surprisingly demanding task.   It takes attention and focus away from the boring phone call.   But a simple, non-demanding task like doodling helps keep the brain engaged, stop daydreaming, and keep enough attention on the original task to be effective.

Doodle! Image by magicmarie on Stock.XchngSo while doodling is evidence of boredom, it’s NOT evidence that someone isn’t paying attention.  It can be quite the opposite – a way of preventing daydreaming and a loss of focus.

Can it actually improve brain fitness? I haven’t found any studies on that, specifically, but it does engage the brain more fully, and associating information with the act of drawing does help to cement memories.

So next time you find your mind wandering, and are tempted to blame it on a senior moment? Pick up a pencil and doodle.   It may not be a fountain of youth that will return you to your childhood scribbles, but it may indeed help you focus your attention!

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BTW… have you entered Dakim’s “Give Thanks for Loved Ones” Contest?” Submit a 500 word essay by November 5th, & you could win a $2500 brain fitness system for a senior friend or family member!  Check out the full details here.

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , , .

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
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Authored by Tori Deaux
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