The next time you catch a colleague doodling during a meeting, congratulate them for doing their bit to stay focused.
Jackie Andrade, a UK cognitive psychologist at the University of Plymouth, believes that when people are stuck in a tedious meeting or listening to a boring conversation, their minds naturally begin to wander.
But, her research has shown that people who doodle may be able to retain as much as 29% more information about what was said during a dull meeting, compared to people who simply sat and tried to listen.
Writing in the journal, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Andrade described her methodology and findings.
Using two test groups, Andrade used a monotonous two-and-a-half minute telephone message and then asked the participants to name the people and places which had been mentioned.
Half of the participants were asked to shade in shapes on a piece of paper while they listened, while the other was not given a task.
On average, the doodlers recalled 7.5 names and places – 29% more than the average of 5.8 remembered by the control group.
So what now for HR?
Andrade said, “It's not so much that doodling is good for your concentration, but that daydreaming is bad.”
She added, “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.”
The reason comes back to the cognitive demands of daydreaming about a holiday, for example, over simply making marks and shapes on a page.
Workplace visual language consultant (and doodling advocate), Sunni Brown said doodling is a powerful tool that has many uses in the workplace.
“Society often thinks doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but in reality it’s actually something you do as a pre-emptive measure to stop you losing focus,” Brown said at a recent TED conference.