MichaelEmeryArt

Why Draw ?

Drawing pulls us up out of "A State of Apathy" (dis-interest,laziness),thus placing our minds in a "Empahtic State"(creating interest),thus holding "Attention"-me

Drawing teaches to pay Attention

The researchers, Associate Professor Shaaron Ainsworth of the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology, and colleagues from La Trobe and Deakin Universities in Australia, report that freehand drawing can inspire students to learn and retain information, and can help them engage with the educational materials, when they might not pay attention otherwise. Freehand drawing or doodling can also help them later to recall and communicate what they have learned.

Drawing may be particularly useful for science students, since science often uses visual aids such as graphs, drawings, videos and still images to explain hypotheses, theories, and findings, but Dr Ainsworth stressed that drawing should complement other activities such as writing and talking, rather than replacing them. She also said that drawing should be a key component and should enhance creativity rather than being a mere “coloring in” activity.

Dr Ainsworth said science students applied more effort to learning when they read and then drew pictures of their understanding of the text. The amount of enjoyment they derived from the activity was "striking," when compared to just reading or from reading and then writing summaries. She said that in her experience it was both more effective and enjoyable to learn through drawing.

The researchers suggested that drawing should be regarded as a valuable element in science education, along with reading, writing, and verbal discussions. The scientists also suggest that if students were allowed to draw when exploring science they could become more motivated to learn than if they are required to learn by rote, as is often currently the case. Students also tend to enjoy their learning activities more than if they are asked to remain passive recipients of their education.

Informal science education opportunities are often represented as merely being “fun,” but the research suggests these activities might be undervalued, and that activities that seem like play can actually stimulate the interests of students and be used by them to explore their scientific interests. Stimulating an interest in science is important if students are to be motivated to engage in scientific research over the long term.

The new study, reported in an article in the journal Science adds to research reported in 2009 in Applied Cognitive Psychology, which found that college students who doodled during routine tasks had improved memory recall over those who did not. The research suggested that doodling prevented the students from daydreaming, which would have distracted them from the task at hand.

More information: Drawing to Learn in Science, Science 26 August 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6046 pp. 1096-1097. DOI: 10.1126/science.1204153

Four Categories of Attention

  • Vigilance. This means maintaining attention over a considerable period of time, such as during an academic lecture. It takes a conscious effort to sustain this type of attention from minutes to hours.
  • Arousal and alertness. These terms refer to physiologic states of attention. For example, when sleeping, individuals remain generally unresponsive to things going on around them, except of course extremely loud disturbances, such as storms. Researchers have shown that at certain times of the day, individuals are more “alert” than at other times. For most people, alertness peaks in the early evening.
  • Divided attention. To what extent can individuals multitask? Or in other words, can people attend equally well to two tasks at once? The ability of individuals to divide their attention depends on individual information processing capacities as determined by the brain’s biology.
  • Selective (focused) attention. This is the ability to focus exclusively on one channel or object of thought, regardless of the amount of surrounding stimuli available to distract and re-focus attention. Researchers study both auditory selective attention and visual selective attention.

A lot of people hate doodlers, those who idly scribble during meetings (or classes or trials or whatever). Most people also hate that other closely related species: the fidgeter, who spins pens or reorders papers or plays with his phone during meetings. (I stand guilty as charged. On occasion, I have also been known to whisper.) We doodlers, fidgeters and whisperers always get the same jokey, passive-aggressive line from the authority figure at the front of the room: "I'm sorry, are we bothering you?" How droll. But the underlying message is clear: Pay attention.

But I've never stopped fidgeting, and I've always thought I walked out of meetings remembering all the relevant parts. Now I have proof. In a delightful new study, which will be published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, psychologist Jackie Andrade of the University of Plymouth in southern England showed that doodlers actually remember more than nondoodlers when asked to retain tediously delivered information, like, say, during a boring meeting or a lecture. (See the cartoons of the week.)

In her small but rigorous study, Andrade separated 40 participants into two groups of 20. All 40 had just finished an unrelated psychological experiment, and many were thinking of going home (or to the pub). They were asked, instead, whether they wouldn't mind spending an additional five minutes helping with research. The participants were led into a quiet room and asked to listen to a 2½-min. tape that they were told would be "rather dull."

That's a shocking bit of understatement. The tape — which Guantánamo officials should consider as a method of nonlethal torture — was a rambling (and fake) voice-mail message that purported to invite the listener to a 21st-birthday party. In it, the party's host talks about someone's sick cat; she mentions her redecorated kitchen, the weather, someone's new house in Colchester and a vacation in Edinburgh that involved museums and rain. In all, she mentions eight place names and eight people who are definitely coming to the party. (See pictures of office cubicles around the world.)

Before the tape began, half the study participants were asked to shade in some little squares and circles on a piece of paper while they listened. They were told not to worry about being neat or quick about it. (Andrade did not instruct people explicitly to "doodle," which might have prompted self-consciousness about what constituted an official doodle.) The other 20 didn't doodle. All the participants were asked to write the names of those coming to the party while the tape played, which meant the doodlers switched between their doodles and their lists.

Afterward, the papers were removed and the 40 volunteers were asked to recall, orally, the place names and the names of the people coming to the party. The doodlers creamed the nondoodlers: those who doodled during the tape recalled 7.5 pieces of information (out of 16 total) on average, 29% more than the average of 5.8 recalled by the control group. (See pictures of a diverse group of American teens.)

Why does doodling aid memory? Andrade offers several theories, but the most persuasive is that when you doodle, you don't daydream. Daydreaming may seem absentminded and pointless, but it actually demands a lot of the brain's processing power. You start daydreaming about a vacation, which leads you to think about potential destinations, how you would pay for the trip, whether you could get the flight upgraded, how you might score a bigger hotel room. These cognitions require what psychologists call "executive functioning" — for example, planning for the future and comparing costs and benefits.

Doodling, in contrast, requires very few executive resources but just enough cognitive effort to keep you from daydreaming, which — if unchecked — will jump-start activity in cortical networks that will keep you from remembering what's going on. Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don't pay attention.

So the next time you're doodling during a meeting — or twirling a pencil or checking the underside of the table for gum — and you hear that familiar admonition ("Are we bothering you?"), you can tell the boss with confidence that you've been paying attention to every word.

"The best things in an artist's work are so much a matter of intuition, that there is much to be said for the point of view that would altogether discourage intellectual inquiry into artistic phenomena on the part of the artist. Intuitions are shy things and apt to disappear if looked into too closely. And there is undoubtedly a danger that too much knowledge and training may supplant the natural intuitive feeling of a student, leaving only a cold knowledge of the means of expression in its place. For the artist, if he has the right stuff in him, has a consciousness, in doing his best work, of something, as Ruskin has said, "not in him but through him." He has been, as it were, but the agent through which it has found expression"