Meetings Memo: Doodling is Good for Concentration

If you're hosting a meeting and half the participants seem more engaged in adding some art work to the margins of your carefully prepared agenda than what you have to say, that might not be as disastrous a development as it at first seems. According to recent psychological research I wish I could forward to every college professor I ever had, scientists claim that doodling actually helps you concentrate. The researchers,
asked forty participants to listen to a monotone two and a half minute phone message about arrangements for a party. They were told the message would be dull, that there was no need to memorise it, but that they should write down the names of the people who would be able to attend the party. Crucially, half the participants were also told to 'doodle' as they listened, by shading in the squares and circles of their note-paper.

Afterwards, the doodlers had noted fractionally more of the correct names (7.8 on average vs. 7.1 - a statistically significant difference). What's more, moments later, the doodlers also excelled in a surprise memory test of the guests' names and the places mentioned in the message, recalling 29 per cent more details than the non-doodlers.

The BPS research blog, which reports the findings, concludes, "this study is part of an emerging recognition in psychology that secondary tasks aren't always a distraction from primary tasks, but can sometimes actually be beneficial." If only I'd known that during that senior year seminar on Joyce, I'd have been a much less guilty undergraduate.

(Doodling image by quinn.anya, CC 2.0)