Feb. 27, 2009 -- The next time you're stuck on hold or zoning out during a dull meeting, you might want to reach for a pen and doodle -- and not just to ease your boredom.
Doodling might help you remember snippets of key information that's mentioned in those conversations, a new study shows.
The study comes from Jackie Andrade, PhD, of the School of Psychology at England's University of Plymouth.
Andrade asked 40 adults who had just finished another psychology test to listen to a "rather dull" audio tape play for two and a half minutes and to jot down the names of people who would definitely or probably be coming to a party, according to the tape.
As they listened to the tape, half of the participants were encouraged to doodle on a piece of paper. They didn't have to draw freehand; instead, they were given a sheet of paper filled with outlines of squares and circles to shade in. For comparison, the other half of the group didn't doodle while listening to the tape.
A minute after the tape finished, participants took a pop quiz in which they had to recall the party-goers' names and places that were mentioned on the tape. They had not been told to listen for the places.
The doodlers recalled an average of "7.5 pieces of information (names and places), 29% more than the [average] of 5.8 recalled by the control group," Andrade writes.
Why was doodling helpful? Maybe it kept participants more alert while they listened to the boring recording, Andrade suggests.
"This study suggests that in everyday life doodling may be something we do because it helps to keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being an unnecessary distraction that we should try to resist doing," Andrade says in a news release.
The study appears online in Applied Cognitive Psychology.