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Andrade, J. (2008). What does doodling do? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 100-106.


  author = {Jackie Andrade},

  title = {What Does Doodling Do?},

  journal = {Applied Cognitive Psychology},

  year = {2008},

  volume = {24},

  number = {1},

  pages = {100-106}


Author of the summary: Laura Inostroza, 2011, laura.inostroza@gmail.com

Cite this paper for:

• First paper upholding the theory that doodling aids concentration and can be beneficial while working.  

• Finding that participants who doodled remembered more names from a monotonous recording than control participants.

This paper is online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/acp.1561/pdf


Doodling is usually seen as a simple activity to pass time when bored. Author of paper believes that it can function as concentration aid.

Through monitoring two groups of students listening to a monotonous recording, one doodle group and one control group, the findings suggest that doodling aids memory.


Participants were asked to partake after having just participated in another, unrelated psychological experiment to enhance the boredom of the task. [p103]

They were chosen from members of the MRC Applied Psychology Unit participant panel. [p101]

A monotonous mock-telephone-call was recorded for the surprise recall task. [p101]

Auditory task chosen so as not to compete for visual resources. [p104]

Script of mock telephone call included eight names of people attending a party which participants were supposed to remember as well as extra names of those who weren't able to attend. [p101]

While listening to the message, participants in the doodling condition used a pencil to shade alternating rows of squares and circles at whatever speed or neatness they wanted. [p102]

Control participants were told to write the target information on a lined piece of paper. [p102]

After recording finished, participants were asked to remember the names of the party-goers and the places mentioned. [p102]

RESULTS [p102]

Participants in doodling group shaded a mean of 36.3 printed shapes. 

Control participants correctly wrote down a mean of 7.1 of the eight names of party-goers.

Doodling participants correctly wrote down a mean of 7.8 names of the party-goers.


This study was conducted without telling the participants that the focus was their doodling or that there would be a memory test.

Timing of the experiment was right after another to maximize boredom.

Participants were given no indication that the doodling might enhance memory or encouraged either way.

Mechanisms that underlie the effect of doodling on concentration could be determined with future research using psychophysiological measures. [p103]

Another hypothesis is that doodling aids concentration by reducing daydreaming. 

The message task was one that could easily facilitate daydreaming so was a good measure of the effectiveness of doodling. [p103]

Doodling did not compete for the verbal processing resources needed for listening to the telephone message and therefore it stimulates the memory capacities. [p104]

The extend to which secondary tasks affect the effects of doodling need to be studied. [p104]

Smallwood et al 2007: The results of these tests could be extremely influential on the studies of depressive ruminations, worried pondering and other states of mind wanderings.

The results of this study are inconclusive but prove that there is a small increase in likelihood of memory capacity in people who partake in doodling. [p104]

Summary author's notes:

Page numbers are from the Wiley Online Library version of the paper.