How Doodling Affects the Brain

What do Bill Gates, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain have in common? They were all extremely successful historical figures who also happened to be doodlers. These men, in addition to a bulk of recent research, attest to the increasingly accepted fact that doodling isn’t necessarily opposed to creative output, focus, or engagement with the task at hand.

According to British psychologist Jackie Andrade, the purpose of doodling is “to provide just enough cognitive stimulation during an otherwise boring task to prevent the mind from taking the more radical step of totally opting out of the situation and running off into a fantasy world.” She added that doodling can help one’s concentration and diminish the need to daydream.

“Though many people assume that the brain is inactive when they’re bored, the reverse is actually true,” Andrade said. In actuality, “the brain is designed to constantly process information.” So if a person becomes disinterested or disengaged from a situation, doodling may help them stay focused in, say a class or an activity. So for all the doodlers, scribblers, and those in between, doodling can be constructive, productive, and even stimulating.

Sunni Brown, author of “The Doodle Revolution,” and self-proclaimed Chief InfoDoodler of her own company Sunni Brown Ink, has said that “doodling is beneficial,” after running a consulting firm that worked with companies like Zappos, Disney, and Dell. “Our highly visual brains see words as images. Doodling opens us up to greater insights, better retention of information, and higher levels of concentration,” she said.

From landscapes to flowers, lines to swirls, notebooks to sketch books, doodling comes in all forms. However, it doesn’t matter what you doodle, because ultimately it’s not the images that doodling produces but the very act of doodling itself that can help the mind relax and keep you on track. So go ahead. Doodle your heart out.