The Science of Doodling

Looking through my high school notebooks, I found the margins crowded with various doodles. From flowers, to shading of boxes, almost every single page of notes had some sort of drawing. I brought this to the attention of my mom, who proceeded to show me her notebooks – also filled with an abundance of doodles. She told me that it always helped her to focus in lectures if she drew in the margins. My teachers, on the other hand, had mixed emotions about my dependency on doodling. Most didn’t mind – but the ones who did, got really bent out of shape about it, saying it was a distraction to learning the material in their class (sad). So, I want to dig deeper and see if doodling is advantageous or not.


The Study

Thankfully, Jackie Andrade published this study supporting the hypothesis that doodling is advantageous and helps you pay more attention. In the study, 40 subjects were randomized and split into two groups and listened to a 2 minute voice recording: one group was told to shade shapes throughout the duration of the tape, the other just sat there merely listening.

The Hypothesis: The doodling subjects will have demonstrate a higher rate of remembering the tape

Null Hypothesis: Doodling will have zero impact of remembrance of voicemail

Causation: Doodling enables subjects to more accurately pay attention

Reverse Causation: Subjects that pay attention tend to doodle more

Third Confounding Variables: Individuals attention span (ADHD/ADD/etc)


The Results

After listening to the tape, the subjects had to regurgitate what they remembered from the past 2 minutes. Out of 16 facts, the doodlers on average remembered 7.5 pieces compared to the 5.8 of non-doodlers. From this study, doodlers were 29% more likely to retain the information than non. Meaning the hypothesis was supported. Could this be linked to daydreaming? Often times in class if I do NOT doodle, I find myself daydreamer for the entire duration of lecture, but doodling helps me refrain from doing so.


On the contrary…

Though I cheered inside reading Andrade’s conclusion on the benefits of doodling, not all research supports her hypothesis. In fact, Elaine Chan found that doodling had a negative impact on visual recalling, which is logical because if subjects are doodling and trying to recall visuals, the attention may be split- but at least the research doesn’t suffer from file drawer problem!



Though it is not concrete enough evidence to advocate for doodling during lectures, it could definitely benefit if you struggle from daydreaming, like myself! Mind though, focusing too much on doodling rather than your professor could actually negatively impact you in the long run. So, if you decide to try doodling next lecture, try letting it be subconscious rather than your main focus. Happy Doodling!



Cloud, John. “Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention.” Time. Time Inc., 2009. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

Hughes, Charlotte, and Scott Asakawa. “Keep Calm and Doodle On.” PBS. PBS, 28 July 2014. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.


4 thoughts on “The Science of Doodling

  1. Meaghan Elizabeth Simone

    As a major doodler myself, I can definitely attest to the fact that doodling somehow makes me so much more focused. It helps remove all the clutter from my brain and makes me focus on whatever lesson I’m learning. great writing format and use of in class vocabulary.

  2. Olivia Erb

    I love this post! I day dream all the time in lectures and time goes flying by and then I sit there wondering what the heck did I just learn. I wonder if I start doodling if I’ll be able to remember more information from the lectures. Both of the studies you found seem really good! I think there is never going to be a concrete conclusion because all people learn and study differently. I can’t wait to start doodling to see if it’ll help me in classes.

  3. Caroline Sorrentino

    I doodle all the time! (especially in our class). I feel like for me, I start to do it toward the end of the lecture when I’m fading out and can’t take another minute listening. So for me, I do not think it benefits my learning in any way and if anything, takes away from my experience in the class room. I would like to know though, does WHAT you doodle have any significance? I typically find myself writing my name or initials over and over again or drawing food. Hmm….

  4. Arianna L Del Valle

    I’m definitely guilty of doodling during lectures! Could the results of Andrade’s study be linked to the claim that writing down notes helps students remember information more effectively? This article ( explains the phenomena pretty well. Is the linkage between certain drawings (a flower, cactus, or the sun) and key words possible? Or is it just the action of writing with pen and paper that helps us recall things? Very interesting subject! I loved how you split key terms we learned in class and applied them to the study, it was very easy to read.

Leave a Reply