It is 10 in the morning. I stare at the board in my Algebra Two class trying to focus as much as possible. We continue doing notes and I notice my hand creating doodles of eyes, trees, and random shapes while simultaneously taking in the lesson my math teacher is going through. By the end of class, my paper was covered in little drawings, yet I still understood the math lesson.
Doodling! From scribbling on a piece of paper, to a final result that came from something completely unexpected, doodling may not always be an intentional act of art but it can be a significant one. This art practice has been around for thousands of years, and has been recently used in classrooms - not just art classrooms, though.
Though not all teachers allow for doodling because they find it distracting for students who doodle and their peers, doodling can still be used at home to enrich one’s learning.
Recent studies have shown that doodling can aid students in many aspects of school, like learning and memorization. This blog will go over the benefits of doodling for students when trying to memorize and focus on concepts whilst studying and how doodling can be incorporated into students' study routines. There are a magnitude of study methods that are easily adaptable to adding in the creative touch of doodling for students who decide that this is a viable method!
A psychologist named Jackie Andrea did a study in 2009 involving 40 people monitoring a short, dull voicemail. 20 people doodled and the other 20 did not. These people had no idea that they were being tested in their memories once the voicemail finished. The end result was that the 20 people who doodled had recalled 29% more information than the group who did not. The group that doodled was more engaged and surpassed the other group in active recall testing (Pillay).
As displayed by the study, people who doodled had recalled memories with a far higher success rate than those who did not. There is still a question though: how? How does doodling help with memory?
The science behind doodling
The creative process of doodling helps calm the amygdala, which is located in the medial temporal lobe in the brain (Free Press Journal). This part of the brain is involved with fear function, as in the fight or flight responses. It also processes threatening stimuli (Baxter and Croxson). Doodling can calm down a specific part of our brains, allowing us to study with greater success.
Additionally, psychological distress is consistently lessened by doodling. Doodling is a way to fill in the gaps in your thought processes and glue these processes together. Doodling locates lost memories and brings them back during active recall. Doodling also improves focus by lowering cortisol levels which decreases stress (Roberts). With less stress, it becomes much easier to focus.
As a student, I know that it can be difficult to concentrate with distractions in your surroundings. However, by doodling a simple picture you are able to refocus and zero in on the assignment at hand.
There is a common debate regarding which types of doodles should be used while studying. The types of doodling that students should focus on are repetitive designs that are meaningless and completed at the student’s own pace (Perles).
In contrast, specific doodles should be avoided while trying to focus while studying. For example, doodling your surroundings or a person in front of you would be distracting.
Doodling and ADHD
Doodling can be appealing for people with ADHD. For students with ADHD, doodling can help with staying focused on studying and not zoning out, as doodling requires constant stimulation to create an art piece. Doodling is a simple way to multitask within the bounds of studying.
Doodling can even mimic typical ADHD medication effects, increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine through the use of neurotransmitters (Neel). As doodling is often considered fidgeting, people with ADHD can reap the benefits of studying by doodling while focusing on a primary task.
How to doodle while studying
There really is no way to add doodling into how you study, as we all use different techniques. Still, it is easier to doodle while doing paper based assignments. There are two distinct methods that can be applied to technology and paper based studies.
Doodling is a valuable practice that can be used for studying. It helps students stay calm, makes it easier for students to focus for longer increments, and improves active recall. It doesn't matter the type of paper you use, the writing material you use, or how long you go doodling through your studies,you just have to do what is best for you! And, again, remember that there's no right or wrong way to doodle. Happy doodling and studying!
Baxter, M. G., and P. L. Croxson. “Facing the Role of the Amygdala in Emotional Information Processing.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 109, no. 52, Dec. 2012, pp. 21180–81, doi:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1219167110.
“Mental Health: 6 Reasons Why Doodling Is the Best Way to Destress and Unlock Your Unconscious Creativity.” Free Press Journal, 2023, www.freepressjournal.in/lifestyle/mental-health-6-reasons-why-doodling-is-the-best-way-to-destress-and-unlock-your-unconscious-creativity.
Neel, Dr Monica. “Mindful Living - Doodling.” Thomasneel.com, 2014, thomasneel.com/live-an-artful-life-archive/29-live-an-artful-life/36-mindful-living-doodling#:~:text=The%20value%20of%20doodling%20may.
Perles, Keren. “The Power of Doodling | Education.com.” Www.education.com, 2014, www.education.com/magazine/article/power-of-doodling/.
Pillay, Srini. “The ‘Thinking’ Benefits of Doodling - Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog, 12 Dec. 2016, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-thinking-benefits-of-doodling-2016121510844.
Roberts, Caroline. “Doodlers Rejoice -- You’re Probably Paying Better Attention at Meetings than Anybody.” CNET, 2019, www.cnet.com/health/doodling-can-help-you-pay-attention/.