Doodling is a habit many of us indulge in when we're stuck on hold or taking notes. But don't feel guilty about it — scientific research suggests some definite benefits to those idle scrawls.
Picture by RCabinilla
A study we reported on back in 2010 suggests that doodling actually helps us to maintain focus. The idea is that humans are designed to be able to perform a secondary task alongside the main work we're focusing on, an evolutionary throwback to the necessity to keep one eye out for savage animals in prehistoric times.
Doodling can also have more practical benefits. A 2011 study found that science students absorbed information better when they made drawings of the concepts involved. Freehand drawing and doodling also made it easier to recall the information later.
More concentrated bouts of doodling also have advantages. Designer Glen Elkins points out that if you're looking for a break-time activity between bouts of concentrated work, working on a doodle makes more sense than just jumping back onto Facebook:
Compared to the things I used to do on breaks, like surfing the web or secretly playing a iOS game, sketching has a defined end point. Once you put the pen down, nothing jumps up on my monitor or flashes on my desk to tempt me to resume. By doing something nontechnical, it’s very unlikely the break will stretch on for too long because once I’m done doodling, I’m not thinking about it at all.
So doodle with pride! One final thought: if you're doodling on a tablet or smartphone, you can easily erase the evidence afterwards, or share your awesome sketches if you come up with something impressive.