Was President Obama listening when he doodled the images above?

Most people interpret doodling as inattention. Now we have news that we’re wrong. Doodling doesn’t reduce concentration, it enhances it.

In “Bored? Try Doodling To Keep The Brain On Task,” Alix Spiegel of npr reported that Jackie Andrade, a professor of psychology at the University of Plymouth, tested doodlers against non-doodlers. She had them listen to a boring telephone message. Then she tested their memory of the message.

The doodlers remembered about 29% more detail than those who apparently paid attention. The listeners, unable to maintain interest, zoned out. In contrast, doodling helped prevent the doodlers from drifting off.

Maybe you’ve noticed that walking, showering, and other routine activities that occupy the business part of your brain allow your creative voice to be heard. That’s why we have some of our best ideas in the shower.

Aimless scribbling, like walking or showering, draws from the subconscious mind in the same way. To hear that it also focuses attention and improves memory begins to raise all sorts of questions.

  • Should we encourage doodling at boring meetings?
  • Hand out unlined sketch pads rather than ruled legal pads?
  • Should we question someone’s attention when they listen with rapt eye contact?
  • Make students hand in their doodles at the end of class in order to make sure they were paying attention?
  • How about doing two things at once as a creative thinking technique?

We get some of our best ideas, at least our most creative ideas, from our subconscious. Daydreaming is a great source of creative ideas, because daydreams come from the subconscious. Doodling apparently puts the product of the daydreams on paper, while taking our attention off of the daydream. It’s like getting into the flow of anything—musical improvisation, your golf swing, dancing, writing, brainstorming—anything creative. Don’t think about it and you do it better. The folks at Nike nailed it when began to encourage great athletic achievement with “Just do it!” From them, we can derive the ultimate creative cheer, “Just doodle it!”

3 Responses

  1. Walt,

    There was best a selling book,”Drawing with the Right Brain”…while the left brain tends to see its sights verbally,the right brain looks more visually direct hence a more realistic and detailed drawing.

    It is interesting Obama is left handed and so would tend to doodle with his right brain.


  2. I had read somewhere that when drawing a house, for instance, with your dominant hand, the left mind jumps in “i know what that is” and will draw a boxy representation of a house. using the non-dominant hand the house will be much more realistic althogh there may be some motor skills problems. standing almost forces bottom up thinking, that’s why we pace. i suspect that doodling is the right mind’s way of expressing itself when verbal communication is not possible, the right mind’s way of drawing attention to the fact that correlations are being made, like dreaming or insight. Einstein spent hours walking with his Mr ? or Mr “why? (kurt Godel)

  3. works even better when using the non-dominant hand The left mind gets bored easily and will turn it over to the right, which just loves boring. walt

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