Communication Department Presents Event About What Doodling Means and Why it Matters


On Tuesday, September 15, Dr. Janet Birkey, an Eastern New Mexico University communication professor, presented the event “Doodling: Key to Creativity and Memory Recall or Daydreaming Distraction?” on Facebook Live. This event showed research from different sides of the conversation about the effect of doodling on memory, as well as some history about doodling.

The word doodle originally came from the phrase do little. Over the years, the dictionary definition and what the public believes it means, has changed many times. Dr. Birkey said, in 1828, doodle was a noun and had the definition “simple fellow.” The most recent dictionary definition, coming from the 2020 dictionary, now means “aimless scrawl,” said Dr. Birkey. In 1937, Russel M. Arundel wrote a book called “Everybody’s Pixelated.” The book discussed what different kinds of doodling means. According to the book, if you are doodling words that rhyme, you are poetic. The book also said that if you are being repetitive in your doodles than you are cynical or morbid.

Researchers have tried to determine whether or not doodling is mindless, as well as if it increases creativity and memory recall; Dr. Birkey said “they just don’t agree.” There have been varying results in studies trying to answer these questions. One study showed that people were able to better retain information while doodling over the ones that did not. This result has led some people to believe that doodling can reduce daydreaming. In a 2012 study done by Elaine Chan, she found that people doodling could not remember images as well as those not doodling. From this study, she came to the result that multitasking could be the problem. In a study by Jason Boggs in 2017, he conducted an audio quiz with three different groups - a notetaking group, a structured doodling group, and an unstructured doodling group. His study showed the notetakers did the best, followed by structured doodling group with the unstructured doodling group doing the worst on the quiz. There have been other studies that have shown doodling can decrease stress and internal excitement; with the release of internal excitement, individuals could increase concentration. Dr. Birkey also mentioned that these and future studies could be used to help implement doodling as a way to help with mental health including grief and post-traumatic stress.

Dr. Birkey also mentioned during the presentation that it is important for a college student to “know what type of a learner you are” and “be open” when it comes to learning. She also said that she is a visual learner, so during church she often doodles and is able to picture what was happening which helps her recall. As an instructor, Dr. Birkey said she understands that many others do not like doodling; however, she feels that that it is okay as long as the doodling is not on something to be turned in, because it is not considered to be in the “academic scholarly format.”

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