To find out whether doodling assisted information processing by increasing attentiveness or by enhancing memory.
Research shows we perform less when our attention is divided. However, doodling might aid concentration.
Wilson and Korn (2007) suggested that doodling may help to maintain arousal as we are doing something physical while thinking.
Andrade defines doodling as sketching patterns or figures that are unrelated to the primary task.
Laboratory experiment (unnatural settings)
Independent measures design implemented as participants were either in the doodling or control group.
40 participants who were members of the Medical Research Council of the Applied Psychology Unit were chosen through the method of opportunity sampling. They were aged 18-55 years, mostly women, and were paid a small sum for participation. In each experimental condition, there were 20 participants. They had just completed participating in a study and were about to go home when they were asked if they could spare 5 minutes in Andrade's study.
All participants listened to a dull telephone call about a party for 2.5 minutes, at a recorded speed of 227wpm (words per minute). The independent variable was whether they doodled or not. The responses to the 2 tasks to measure recall, was the dependent variable. They were in a dull quiet room.
Participants were told that they would be tested on the names of the partygoers — Monitoring task. There was a surprise task where they were tested on the names of places mentioned — Recall task. The order of tests were counterbalanced to reduce order effects. The dependent variable was operationalised as plausible mishearings were counted as correct; totally wrong names as false alarms; other words relating to people were ignored. The final score was the number of correct names minus the number of false alarms.
The call had 8 names of partygoers, and 3 people and a cat who didn't attend. 8 place names were mentioned. Participants were given standardised instructions. A4 sheets were given to participants in the doodle group with alternating rows of squares and circles, ten per row. It had a wide margin on the left to record targeted information. Participants were asked to shade while listening to relieve boredom. Participants in the control group were given a lined paper.
All participants listened at a comfortable volume. The experimenter apologised for conducting a surprise task and then conducted the 2 tasks. New names and the names mentioned on the tape as slurs were counted as false alarms.
Doodle group — mean no. of shapes shaded was 36.3 from a range of 3-110. No participants in the control group spontaneously doodled.
The control and doodling group made an average false alarm of 0.3 in the Recall task.
Task 1: Monitoring Task Results
- Participants of the control group recalled a mean of 7.1 names. 5 people made a false alarm.
- Participants of the doodling group recalled a mean of 7.8 names. 1 person made a false alarm.
- Doodling participants recalled a mean of 7.5 names and places, 29% more than the mean of the control group (5.8).
- Recall for both tasks was better for doodlers, even when participants suspected of demand characteristics were excluded.
- Doodling helps concentration on a primary task as doodling participants performed better than participants who only listened to the primary task.
- Doodle group performed better on both tasks. There are 2 possible explanations:
i) either doodling affected attention or,
ii) doodling improved memory by encouraging deeper information processing.
However, without a measure of daydreaming, it is difficult to distinguish between the 2 explanations. Daydreaming could have been measured either through a self-report or by using brain scans to identify reduced activation of the cortex. The cortex is associated with daydreaming.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Extraneous variables could be controlled as it was a lab experiment. For example, people listened at a comfortable volume so there were no differences in stress on words
- The standardised procedure made all participants equally likely to be bored and therefore daydream. For example, the same monotonous recording was used and all participants were sat in a dull quiet room. This improves validity as differences in results were due to doodling or not. There is high reliability as all participants were similarly bored.
- The operationalisation of doodling was standardised by using the doodling sheets and this increases validity. The dependent variable had been operationalised in terms of false alarms and score calculation.
- Participants' age ranged from 18-55 years thus, were representative. However, they are from a recruitment panel and may be very similar. For example, they all may be interested in psychology. This could bias the sample, therefore lowers validity. Further, most of the participants were females.
- The study collected quantitative data, the number of names and places. This is an objective record of memory. It would have had been helpful to ask participants for self-reports of any daydreaming to understand whether differences in results were due to attention or daydreaming.
Participants did not give informed consent fully for the recall task. This may have caused psychological distress. However, participants were debriefed and apologised to by the researchers.
Application to Everyday Life
When listening to a lecture, doodling might be advantageous. However, deliberately drawing something may be counterproductive.
Individual vs. Situational Explanation for Behaviour
As doodling affected recall, this shows a situational effect on information processing. However, people do not doodle in the same way. This shows an individual difference behind doodling behaviour.