Toronto | Simply drawing pictures of what you need to remember may help you better recall the information than just writing the words down, a new study has found. We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top, said Jeffrey Wammes from the University of Waterloo in Canada.
We believe that the benefit arises because drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information, said Wammes.
The study presented student participants with a list of simple, easily drawn words, such as apple. 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, researchers asked students to freely recall as many words as possible from the initial list in just 60 seconds. We discovered a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written, said Wammes. 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, he said. 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, researchers said.
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, they said.
Importantly, 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, said Wammes.
In line with this, we showed that people still gained a huge advantage in later memory, even when they had just 4 seconds to draw their picture, he said.
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