Saturday, February 28, 2009

Doodlers and Fidgeters in the House

When I was in college I had a close friend who was the editor in chief of one of our major university papers. In classes, especially boring ones, we'd always find ourselves seated beside each other in order to survive the temptations of sleep. We'd mostly joke around random stuff, finding stupid topics and making stupid stories out of it. We both provided our own creative inputs in between lectures of Advanced History and Chemistry.

In all those attempts of creative intimacy, I have greatly noticed one weird thing about him. He was, and I believe still is, a doodler-maniac. He would fill one leaf of yellow pad just doodling words in varying angles. He doodles his full name, which I always pointed out to be so narcissistic. Rarely he doodles shapes or something else. I'm not saying this using the point of distraction because I am a doodler myself. I doodle random things from words to shapes to names in my head, but I do pause once in a while and look around. This friend of mine doodles non-stop, not looking at anyone else. His head was always bent down practically like hiding from a coming bomb. I didn't mind this at first until another friend of ours pointed out that he was wasting paper.

From then on, we would always laugh about this habit of his, but looking back, as much as we doodled and talked, we never failed nor had a hard time passing those dull subjects. We were often relaxed and mentally active even.

According to TIME, there's a study now that justifies DOODLERS like me and MASSIVE DOODLERS like my friend.

Why does doodling aid memory? Andrade offers several theories, but the most persuasive is that when you doodle, you don't daydream. Daydreaming may seem absentminded and pointless, but it actually demands a lot of the brain's processing power. You start daydreaming about a vacation, which leads you to think about potential destinations, how you would pay for the trip, whether you could get the flight upgraded, how you might score a bigger hotel room. These cognitions require what psychologists call "executive functioning" — for example, planning for the future and comparing costs and benefits.

Doodling, in contrast, requires very few executive resources but just enough cognitive effort to keep you from daydreaming, which — if unchecked — will jump-start activity in cortical networks that will keep you from remembering what's going on. Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don't pay attention. (

So for doodlers out there, keep it up.


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