Three Doodle Studies

It’s perfectly understandable that those new to visual thinking might be a little skeptical when it comes to applying visual methods of thinking into everyday study or work routines. We have after all been conditioned to think and do things a certain way since early we entered school. We no longer think like a child who tackles their problems or learns things by drawing pictures. These methods seem odd and strange . We are after all not kids any more. We are grownups and therefore must act like adults, and doodling is certainly not part of the adult world.

Nobody said that transitioning into the world of visual thinking would be easy. Old habits aren’t easily broken, but some new habits can be very fun and enjoyable to create.

Within this article I would like to share with you three studies about doodling. Each of these studies shows the value of doodling and how it can potentially help with how we learn, capture and manage information.

We will specifically take a look at the Listening Doodle Study, the Science Doodle Study, and the Funky Fonts Study. Each of these studies present us with some amazing insights about the process of doodling and the act of visual thinking. My hope is that when you begin to understand the value of doodling from a researcher’s perspective that it will help you be more open to the possibilities that lay before you as you step onto this exciting journey through the world of visual thinking.

The Listening Doodle Study

Researcher Jackie Andrade from the University of Plymouth in southern England wanted to find out whether or not the memory and recall of doodlers would be different to non-doodlers.

She divided 40 participants into the two groups of 20. The first group was a control group, while group two was the experimental group.

She had both groups listen to a 2 minute and 30 second voice mail recording that invited the listener to a 21st birthday party. The control group participants were asked to simply listen to the voice mail message and write down the names of those coming to the party. The experimental group was also asked to listen to the voice message and to write down the names of those attending, but they were also instructed to shade circles and squares on a sheet of paper while listening.

Once both groups had finished, Jackie surprised them with a quiz. She quizzed them about what each listener remembered from the voice mail recording.

What she discovered was that the group that doodled remembered 29 percent more information than the non-doodlers. Jackie concluded that doodling prevented the listener from daydreaming by helping them to stay more present and mindful of their environment.

The lesson from the study is that doodling helps people stay focused and present in the moment. And as a result they are able to remember and recall more information.

For more information about this study, please see: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention.

The Science Doodle Study

Researchers Sharon Ainsworth, Russel Tytler and Vaughan Prain wanted to find out if freehand drawing would help inspire students to learn and retain information more readily while studying science.

The researchers encouraged students learning science subjects to visualize what they were learning as much as possible. Each student would therefore read the material they were asked to learn and then they would represent it in a visual way on paper.

What the researchers discovered was that when students visualized what they were learning they had a deeper learning experience, better retention of information, they had improved reasoning, which all helped accelerate the learning process. Most importantly the students found that visual forms of learning were much more enjoyable and engaging.

The researchers concluded that drawing should complement — not replace — other activities such as writing and talking. They also identified that drawing while learning a subject helps enhance the creative process.

The lesson from the study is therefore to read, write, talk and then draw what you are learning in order to get the most from every learning experience.

For more information about this study, please see: Drawing And Doodling Can Help You Learn Science.

The Funky Fonts Study

Researcher Connor Diemand-Yauman and his team wanted to find out what impact fonts had on a student’s ability to learn, remember and recall information. The researchers were in particular curious to discover whether switching from “easy to read” fonts to “more difficult” fonts would boost a student’s learning ability. They hypothesized that the struggle with reading these fonts would help improve learning.

So they went out and recruited English, Physics, Chemistry and History teachers to help them with this study. They asked the teachers to send them their class notes via email or regular mail. They then took these class notes and converted the regular fonts into non-standard fonts that were more difficult to read. The fonts they used were Monotype Corsiva, Comic Sans, and Haettenschweiler.

Once the class notes had been updated with the new fonts, they sent them back to the teachers so they could distribute them to their students. 222 students participated in this study for up to one month. Some students received class notes with the regular fonts, while other students received the updated class notes with the funky fonts.

At the end of the study the researchers discovered that students who were reviewing class notes using the funky fonts performed better on tests. What’s more, they had a better rate of attention and retention.

The lesson from the study is that our brains need more stimulation when we are learning material. When properly stimulated through a visual means, the brain is able to remember and recall information far more readily and easily.

For more information about this study, please see: Funky Fonts May Help Students Learn.

Final Thoughts

These three studies provide us with some valuable insights into how the brain thinks, manages information and learns most effectively. Furthermore, they help us to better understand the incredible value of the doodle and the benefits of learning how to think visually.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning Professor Richard Mayer who is the author of Multi Media Learning. After ample research in this field he concluded that retention and recall are boosted 42 percent with multi-media learning, and a whopping 89 percent with illustrated text.

Given all this, don’t you think it’s worthwhile keeping an open mind about the doodle?