The higher purpose of doodling

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Are you a doodler? The Oxford English Dictionary says that a doodle is a “drawing made absentmindedly,” but that definition doesn’t sit well with some who think that doodling helps them to think. Sunni Brown is one of those people, saying, “It’s totally inaccurate. It’s not an accurate representation of what’s happening for a doodler.”

Brown wants to change people’s opinion of doodlers everywhere, so she wrote a piece called “The Doodle Revolution.”

She says that her drawings are “info-doodles” that help her to remember things and to solve problems. “I’ve seen people tackling serious challenges, and they inevitably go straight to the white board or straight to the wall and start mapping it to have a more effective conversation. And then you have that visual explanation to help people understand what’s really happening.”

Brown now offers doodling workshops through her consulting company, SB Ink, and many large media companies and retailers are taking part. “They say all the usual stuff: ‘Oh, it’s a waste of time.’ ‘Oh, it’s mindless scratching.’ They say everything that you would expect them to say when you misunderstand and you underestimate something.”

Research supports the power of doodling, as a 2009 study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that those who doodle remembered 29% more information than those who don’t doodle.

Philosophy professor Jesse Prinz of the City University of New York is a doodler himself, so he encourages his students to doodle away during class to stay engaged with the lecture. “Think about mindless drawing as a way to take all those things that distract you, all those subjects that you ruminate on, and clearing them away, and opening this space where information can get in. Doodling is the attentional sweet spot,” Prinz says. Next time you see someone doodling during a meeting, you may want to think twice before assuming that person isn’t paying attention.

CBS Sunday Morning, 1/19/14

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