Drawing things that need to be remembered may help you more than when you write them, finds an interesting study.
Drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered is a strong and reliable strategy to enhance memory. The study showed that drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information.
"We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top," said the lead author, Jeffrey Wammes, doctoral student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
The findings showed a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written.
Also, the participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn than written words.
"We labelled this benefit 'the drawing effect,' which refers to this distinct advantage of drawing words relative to writing them out," Wammes explained.
Memory for drawn words was superior to all other alternatives.
Drawing led to better later memory performance than listing physical characteristics, creating mental images, and viewing pictures of the objects depicted by the words.
In addition, the quality of the drawings people made did not seem to matter, suggesting that everyone could benefit from this memory strategy, regardless of their artistic talent.
"In line with this, we showed that people still gained a huge advantage in later memory, even when they had just four seconds to draw their picture," Wammes noted.
However, in variations of the experiment in which students drew the words repeatedly, or added visual details to the written letters, such as shading or other doodles, the results remained unchanged.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, presented student participants with a list of simple, easily drawn words, such as "apple".
The students were given 40 seconds to either draw the word or write it out repeatedly.
They were then given a filler task of classifying musical tones to facilitate the retention process.
Finally, the researchers asked students to freely recall as many words as possible from the initial list in just 60 seconds.
The researchers are currently trying to determine why this memory benefit is so potent, and how widely it can be applied to other types of information.