By: Bridgette Mazuran
It always starts with a class. Half will be paying attention to their social media feed, while the other half will be focusing on what the professor is saying. Some go as far as taking a different approach to “note taking,” scribbling their own ideas on the subject by marking up the side of their notebook with dashes, circles or turning their creative endeavors into a masterpiece.
Professors see this as a distraction to learning that needs to be reprimanded. “Stop doodling in my class,” is the go-to response in fixing the problem. Parents will also chime in, agreeing with claims that drawing in class halts learning, creating bad habits in note-taking skills and leading to failure to pass classes.
This is such a widespread belief that even students themselves try to break this addiction to drawing, but according to some, this doodling can benefit learning.
According to a study in the Applied Cognitive Psychology Journal, doodlers retain 29 percent more information than those who do not.
“When you doodle you don’t daydream,” says John Cloud, in an article for Time Magazine. “Scientifically, daydreaming requires an extensive amount of brainpower–the people who sit still… let the information pass them by. As for doodlers, they are intact with what is happening in the classroom.”
Doodling allows your brain to stop daydreaming, but not get so distracted that you don’t pay attention in class. Doodling is a form of thinking, learning, comprehending and processing information, which is why James Scuderi, a senior international affairs major, is an avid doodler.
“I draw because I generally know what [my professors] are talking about, topics that I am somewhat familiar with,” says Scuderi. “I still take notes because every once in a while I will hear something that I don’t know, which makes me conscious of what’s going on in class.”
Scuderi continues by saying that just because he draws does not mean that he hates the course or the professor.
According to a study in the Applied Cognitive Psychology Journal, doodling not only improves memory but also helps relieve stress and certain disorders. Srini Pillay, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, wrote an article in 2016 explaining the results of this study.
“Doodles fill these gaps, possibly by activating the brain’s ‘time travel machine,’ allowing it to find lost puzzle pieces of memories,” says Pillay. “A report on the learning styles on students, shows that a 30 minute doodle helps them remember information, fills gaps in their thinking and provides a much needed reprieve from loads of information they must wade through.”
Pillay explains that these doodles are a form of fidgeting, to fight off sleep and a last minute attempt of being attentive.
Caitlin Guffin, a senior entertainment and media studies major, explains how this habit benefits her coping with her Attention Deficit Disorder. “I draw in every class because it gives me a good outlet while still allowing me to pay attention to what’s being taught.” Guffin continues by saying that doodling is presumably better than being on the phone or laptop that is distracting to other students.
Researchers are still researching this new, yet innovative field where a connection between learning and drawing can be established and can assist in future education.