Doodling and Concentration
Doodling is a common activity that individuals engage in whenever they get bored or tired. Doodling is mostly performed during long lectures or tedious listening sessions that require high levels of concentration. Doodling takes the form of scribbling randomly on a piece of paper, drawing, or shading shapes and patterns. The practice of doodling is commonly characterized as a form of daydreaming and is termed as a sign of distraction. Contemporary psychologists have grappled with the phenomenon in order to understand whether it improves or deteriorates concentration and memory retention. Doodling during monotonous activities improves cognitive performance and memory retention by reducing daydreaming.
Limited psychological research exists on the cognitive effects of doodling and its relations with the concept of daydreaming. However, in recent years, heightened interest is rife in the area of memory retention and concentration, thus leading to an increase in research and studies in the field of cognitive psychology. Psychologist Jackie Andrade, in her seminal research paper What Does Doodling Do, evaluates the cognitive effect of doodling and relates it with the psychological concept of daydreaming. Andrade undertakes a control experimental study to test whether the practice of doodling aids concentration. Andrade utilizes a control experiment to conduct her experimental study. Forty participants were involved in the research. The participants were required to listen to a pre-recorded mock telephone conversation during the experimental study. An auditory task was opted for by the researcher; the participants were required to listen to the mock telephone message so that doodling would compete minimally with modality-specific sources such as concentration and memory retention (Andrade, 2010). Participants listened to and monitored the recorded telephone message for specific, infrequent, information about the names of party-goers. Afterward the participants were subjected to a surprise recall test for that information. Also, they were also requested to doodle freely through shading in printed shapes on the response sheet. This was to be done while listening to the recorded telephone call (Andrade, 2010). Each participant’s performance in the experimental test was measured by monitoring accuracy and memory of the information they recalled from listening to the telephone recording. To tally and tabulate the results of the study, the researcher deduced that accuracy of information provided during the study reflected the concentration level and depth of processing of the monitored material by the participants (Andrade, 2010). The experimental tests investigated the effect of doodling on human concentration and on human cognitive abilities (Andrade, 2010). In conducting the experimental test, psychologist Andrade wanted to prove the following hypothesis:
H1– Doodling stabilizes arousal at an optimal level and therefore, reduces the high levels of autonomic arousal that is associated with boredom thus lack of concentration.
H2– Doodling aids concentration by reducing daydreaming on occasions that daydreaming may lead to detrimental results such as reduced productivity.
The main role of the participants during the study was to provide data for the analysis of the effect of drooling on concentration. The 40 participants were divided into two groups, with one being used as a control group. The role of the control group was tasked with listening to the recorded telephone conversation, as well as writing the target information on a lined piece of paper (Andrade, 2010). Members of the control group were not allowed to doodle during the two-and-a-half-minute recording. For purposes of doodling the other group’s members were provided with a pencil to shade shapes of a diverse diameter on a piece of paper (Andrade, 2010). Members of the group were also provided with a separate piece of paper to jot down any relevant information from the telephone recording (Andrade, 2010). The test group was required to doodle while listening to the recorded message, as well as writing down any relevant information. Before being subjected to the experimental test, the participants were involved in an unrelated experiment of giving directions to different locations. According to Andrade (2010), the experiment was a means of enhancing boredom amongst the participants before the study. The participants were also subjected to a random recall test after the study, whereby they were required to recall any relevant information they had acquired from the test.
Approached by the researcher, I would be interested in taking part in the study for several reasons. First, there is a limited number of research and experimental studies concerning cognitive psychology, and being able to help in the experimental test would be an essential contribution to the field of psychology. Second, I am interested in the effects of doodling and how it impacts human concentration and memory retention. Therefore, participating in the experimental study would also align with my interests and future ambitions of becoming a psychologist. Third, I would also be interested in the study so as to attain the honorarium issued to the participants. An honorarium earned by participating in a scientific research is proof of one’s dedication in the improvement of science through research, which improves one’s chance of being employed in the field of science.
The experimental study by Jackie Andrade confirmed that doodling aided concentration. Notably, members of the control group correctly noted a mean of 7.1 of the eight names of party-goers required during the study (Andrade, 2010). On the other hand, the doodling participants correctly wrote a mean of 7.8 (Andrade, 2010). Regarding the recall performance, the doodling participants managed to recall an average of 7.5 relevant pieces of information; a mean of 5.8 was recalled by the control participants (Andrade, 2010). Therefore, the doodling participants averaged 29 percent more pieces of relevant information compared to those who did not doodle during the experimental test (Andrade, 2010). The above results confirm and support the two hypotheses highlights by psychologist Andrade at the start of the experimental study. The results of the study showed that doodling aids in concentration and reduces the chances of boredom during a protracted or tedious listening exercise.
The researcher draws several conclusions from the findings of the research on the cognitive effects of doodling and daydreaming. According to Andrade (2020), daydreaming is associated with the high arousal levels exhibited by humans during boredom through increased activity in default cortical networks (Andrade, 2010). Moreover, she concludes that boredom occupies central cognitive executive resources, hence resulting in reduced performance in tasks that require heightened levels of concentration such as listening (Andrade, 2010). The researcher, in her conclusions, argues that doodling only utilizes the secondary cognitive executive resources while keeping the central executive resources engaged to minimize daydreaming, which negatively impacts concentration and memory retention. According to Andrade (2010), doodling selectively loads the central executive resources that are responsible for daydreaming, and therefore, results in improved cognitive performance. The conclusions made by Andrade highlight the relation between daydreaming and doodling, as well as their enabling factor of central cognitive executive resources. This relation enables psychologists to understand the role of secondary tasks on visuomotor learning that depends on the arousal of cognitive resources.
Jackie Andrade’s research is important in explaining the role of doodling in human cognitive psychology. I can relate to Andrade’s findings on doodling because a positive connection between doodling and concentration will help me in my educational studies. I have a short concentration span, and therefore, have a maximum concentration span of thirty minutes.Based on the findings by Andrade, I will implement doodling into my reading and studying patterns to enhance my concentration levels. I believe that doodling will help me improve on my concentration in my lectures, which are long, three hours, and therefore exerting.
Through Andrade’s findings, doodling will become more accepted, especially in official settings. Currently, due to limited research on the psychological concept of doodling, the habit is generally resented and treated as an exhibition of lack of seriousness and absent-mindedness in the workplace and socially (Pillay, 2016). The finding by Andrade is important in laying the foundation for the social and official acceptance of doodling as a means of aiding concentration and memory retention. In the near future, through extra research on the field of cognitive psychology, the concept of doodling will be termed acceptable. It will thus be promoted in education and corporate circles. Notably, the findings of the experimental study have already been put in use at the Harvard Medical School where doodling is considered an important cognitive concept, thus its promotion (Pillay, 2016). Due to the various benefits of doodling, the ministry of education should be at the forefront in advancing its use in schools.
Andrade conducted the experimental study perfectly and logically. She limited the chances of making errors during the study, and I opine that, based on her methodology, the study’s results are fairly accurate. The two methodological features utilized by the researcher to ensure that every participant was bored before the study was helpful in obtaining the required results. Through participants undergoing an exerting study, through which they were required to provide directions to given locations, and by intentionally informing them that the primary task of the study was boring, the researchersensured that the participants were prone to boredom. The utilized methodologies ensured that the participants were highly likely to be bored during the test, and therefore, more inclined to engage in active doodling.
If I were the researcher in charge of the experimental study, I would have tweaked several parts of the study conducted by Andrade to collect more practical results. First, I would haveprovided the participants with a long, recorded telephone message which would have been played at a slower speed than average. This would have sought to ensure that a large number of the participants would get bored during the test. The researcher utilized a recording that lasted for only two-and-a-half minutes. I believe that this was a short duration for an average human being to become immediately bored. Hence, I would have used a longer telephone recording that lasted formore than five minutes and slowed the speed of the monologue. That the study does not measure daydreaming by the participants during the experiment lowers the effectiveness of the study. The probability that the participants slipped into daydreaming during the study is quite high, and this should have been measured to correctly relate doodling to daydreaming. Conducting the study, I would have measured the aspect of daydreaming among the participants through the use of a retrospective self-report filled by each participant. I would then collect data from the reports and tally them to analyze and compare them with the results of doodling.
The researcher undertakes a simplistic approach in her study of the effect of doodling on concentration, and I believe that this impacts the effectiveness of the result of her test. Andrade, in her research, only uses a simplified recorded telephone monologue to conduct the study, which I consider as quite simplistic as it does not provide data that can be used to link doodling and concentration to real-world topics and concepts that aremore complicated. As the researcher, I would have utilized a more complex study material such as a lecture recording to form the basis of the experimental study. A complex study material such as a lecture recording would have made the participants more inclined to boredom than the telephone recording utilized by Andrade.
The article by Andrade brought several ideas to my mind with regard to cognitive psychology such as how cognitive psychology can be used in actualizing and improving visuomotor learning. Visuomotor learning is essential to teaching individuals suffering from neurological diseases, for instance, Tourette Syndrome (TS), on how to perform basic human functions (Day et al., 2016). TS is a childhood-onset neurological condition that is characterized by an ever-evolving set of chronic motor tics or semi-voluntary muscle movement (Day et al., 2016). Contemporary research into the Tourette syndrome holds that tics arise in individuals suffering from TS due to increased habit learning, which leads to the individual acquiring more automatic behaviors than is normal (Kim et al., 2018). TS also affects the concentration and cognitive development of children. Visuomotor learning impacts individuals’ cognitive abilities, and therefore, it be utilized to enable motor learning among those suffering from TS.
The findings by Andrade can be utilized to improve human concentration and memory retention. According to Kim et al. (2018), Andrade’s findings on the relation between doodling, daydreaming, and concentration can be used to increase human concentration levels through depressive ruminations and worry. Though done cognitively, depressive ruminations and worry are inherent forms of doodling which also hinder daydreaming through gradual loading of the central executive resources (Kim et al., 2018). According to Kim et al. (2018), worry and internal ruminations by the brain can be utilized to help maintain dysphoric mental states that hinder daydreaming. I opine that Andrade’s findings can be utilized as a springboard of discovering how internal moods and feelings can be utilized to improve concentration. This will be particularly helpful in the contemporary digital world where human concentration levels are at an all-time low. I contend that Andrade’s research and findings provide a good opening for the proliferation of further research on cognitive psychology, particularly on concentration and memory retention.
Doodling is a common practice among individuals who are bored. Individuals find themselves drawing or even shading objects whenever in the middle of long activities requiring high levels of concentration. Dismissed as a non-progressive and useless practice, doodling is discouraged across various official circles. However, the research by Jackie Andrade titled What Does Doodling Do? seeks to prove the need for doodling across various spheres. Andrade, a psychologist, makes the connection between doodling and concentration and concludes that doodling aids concentration. Although Andrade stresses the need for further investigation on the concept, her findings have seriously impacted society. Through her research, various institutions and professional circles that abhorred doodling are slowly becoming receptive of the practice and promoting it. Andrade’s findings mark a significant improvement for many individuals, particularly students who have to sit out or attend long lectures while being required to remember everything that is taught. Andrade’s experimental study also provides other contemporary researchers with a starting point on studies that concern applied cognitive psychology.
Andrade, J. (2010). What does doodling do?. Applied Cognitive Psychology: The Official Journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 24(1), 100-106.https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.1561
Day, K. A., Roemmich, R. T., Taylor, J. A., & Bastian, A. J. (2016). Visuomotor learning generalizes around the intended movement. Eneuro, 3(2).https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0005-16.2016
Kim, S., Jackson, S. R., Groom, M., & Jackson, G. M. (2018). Visuomotor learning and unlearning in children and adolescents with Tourette syndrome. Cortex, 109, 50-59.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2018.08.007
Pillay, S. (2016, December 12). The “thinking” benefits of doodling. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-thinking-benefits-of-doodling-2016121510844