Just Enough Distraction: Boredom, Music, Doodling

I just read an interesting article
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101727048
about doodling. It reports a scientific finding that people who doodle are better able to retain what they're hearing when hearing something boring.

It turns out that if you don't doodle, you are terribly bored, and detach completely, zone out and think about something else entirely. This results in your retention of nothing. However, there are some tasks, like doodling, that take up just a little of your attention. Enough so that, in combination with the boring thing you're listening to, you are not terribly bored overall. This allows you to pay some attention to what you're hearing. Doodling helps you pay attention.

This aligns perfectly with my menton theory (forthcoming).

I remember when I was working on my dissertation project, I was programming day after day. It sometimes got boring. If I listened to music I would get distracted. But there were certain kinds of music, mostly instrumental, that would not. I described it as being just entertaining enough to keep me from being bored programming. I think this study is vindicating this interpretation.

Pictured: a doodle of a Zeta, one of the mythological aliens that some people think are abducting people.

Comments

Katharine said…
This sounds similar to what I've read and heard about people with ADD being able to pay attention better if they're occupied with some minor task, such as crochet or knitting.
Jennifer said…
I am totally with you on this. In college, I did much better in class when I went I "took notes" with a blank piece of paper (more conducive for doodling) than with lined paper, which I find structures my thoughts into words. Lately, I've taken to doodling during staff meetings (I work on a carbon sequestration project, and we spend lots of time talking about geology) and it has improved my retention a thousand fold. Of course, our director has noticed and mentioned my rediscovered habit, but I told him that I'm taking "visual notes" and I repeat back the last 8 things he said in crushing detail, so he doesn't argue with me about it anymore.

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