When I was a schoolboy, one of the things I would often get reprimanded for was my tendency to draw in class. Not that I was a bad drawer (which I definitely was), but because the teachers wanted me to listen to them, not draw. As it turns out, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Quite to the contrary: I might even have been giving them the best of my attention when I was doodling. This counterintuitive logic comes from various studies that have been conducted over the recent years. Let’s explore the science of drawing.
Doodlers retain 29% more information than others
Jackie Andrade, Psychologist from University of Plymouth, UK, conducted a study where a panel of 40 people were asked to listen to a phone conversation. The sample was split evenly: 20 non-doodlers acting as the control group, and 20 doodlers. The phone conversation mentioned names of people able to attend a party, those not able to attend it, and several locations. The subjects were then tested on the information they had retained.
The results pointed that doodlers retained 29% more information than the control group. So, does that mean doodling is always better to stay focused and remember things? Not necessarily. In this study, the drawing exercise was mindless and didn’t include any kind of creativity that could have used much valuable brain capacity. So, don’t get started on elaborate drawings as this will take your focus away from the meeting.
Reproducing this famous drawing by MC Escher during a meeting is a surefire way to lose focus. You’re better off taking from this glorious video tutorial on drawing meetings, or from Phil McAndrew’s Big List of Stuff to Draw.
Doodling: A multisensory activity
There are 4 ways for our brain to retain information: visual, reading/writing, kinesthetic (touch), and auditory. When it comes to our preferences, study by Miller et al (2001) shows that the population is roughly equally divided between each. What’s interesting here is that doodling actually combines all four sensory prompts at once, as Sunni Brown points out on her Ted Talk.
Brown concludes her talk stating that doodling should be “favored when information density is very high, and the need for processing that information is very high” as well.
We’re doodling in meetings anyway
A study that we conducted with research center Ifop this March shows that 37% of people draw during meetings. This number jumps to 44% among female workers.
In light of the results we discussed above, it’s a good thing. Especially considering that some others will do something else completely. In the same Ifop study, 51% answered to be emailing during meetings, 10% confess to be playing games and a surprising 2% browse dating websites!
When it comes to doing something else during a meeting, evidence points out that it’s a way better choice to take a pen and draw than to engage in any other kind of activity, especially one that drives your attention away from the matters at hand.
Wether you’re doodling or not, you should still aim to take notes during meetings, or at least have a team member responsible of doing it for every one. With Solid, you can take notes as the conversation happen and send a summary to everyone who attended the meeting.
Are you a professional doodler? Let us know how you stay focused in the comments below.