April 22, 2009

Common Sense and Doodling

author_sally By Sally Raskoff

Did your parents ever tell you to turn off your music while you were studying so that they knew that you were doing your homework? I had no headphones and my stereo had pretty big speakers so my parents were not only concerned about my study habits but also about noise pollution of their airspace.

Today we have iPods and ear buds, so parents may be less annoyed by the intrusion of their kids’ music into their own space but many still worry quite a bit about how distractions affect their children’s concentration and study time. Technological changes bring imageus new ways to distract ourselves hence “texting while studying” can present a new challenge for parents worried about distractions. On the other hand, perhaps they more concerned about hearing loss due to those ear buds!

In any case, parents’ main concern is often lies the diversion of attention away from academic pursuits. A recent study on doodling may offer you a way to image console your parents (and teachers) and lessen their worry about such diversions.

Those who doodle during meetings (or class) may be judged as distracted and not fully paying attention to the main event. Doodlers may even hide their doodles to avoid such judgments.

But the study found that, compared with people who don’t doodle, doodlers are more likely to recall information and to perform tasks better. The study authors hypothesize that the doodling keeps daydreaming away and allows the person to retain most of their attention to the task at hand.

One might surmise that music and doodling serve the same purposes of quieting that inner dialogue or daydreaming that tempts us all. Of course, to know if this one study has results that will hold up, we would need to replicate or repeat the study and control for other factors, such as background music.

Social science research has shown us here that what may look like a distraction actually keeps distraction at bay by enabling us to more fully retain information. What appears to be common sense or obvious may not turn out to be the case when we study the phenomenon scientifically.

image How people judge us is, of course, another issue. Is it easy to re-educate parents and teachers about behaviors they believe to be problematic? Using scientific findings to spark a discussion can give your argument more weight and legitimacy. Basing an argument on opinions is often less persuasive, but basing one’s points in valid and reliable scientific findings – especially when you find many studies that back up your points – can change others’ opinions.

Another twist on this situation is that people do judge others based on what they perceive to be true, and they then act on those judgments and develop expectations about those people. People may come to fulfill those expectations.

An example would be teachers who judge students as smart or not so smart and then spend their energy guiding those deemed smart into challenging activities and leaving those ”not so smart” students to repeat their basic exercises. This approach doesn’t challenge those students in the lower group, who might get bored and disengage. Even if they had abilities to do more, they won’t have access to activities that can help them improve.

The concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy has been well tested in educational settings. Students placed in the lower tracks of educational goals will do things to keep themselves there even if they are capable of doing more. This process can occur even if a teacher isn’t actually judging a student, but if the student thinks that they are being judged and labeled in some specific way. William Chambliss’ classic study, The Saints and the Roughnecks examines youth living up to the labels of others. While two groups of boys essentially engaged in the same types of rowdy behavior, one group of wealthier kids was thought to be “sowing their wild oats” while the other group of low-income kids were just thought to be bad. Chambliss found that years later the so-called “Saints” were successful, well-adjusted adults, but the “Roughnecks” had lived up to their labels as troublemakers.

Just as we might make assumptions about doodlers, what other labels do we create for people? What self-fulfilling prophesies do you think might follow?


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The thought that doodling and listening to music is helpful when doing work is very interesting and I also find it to be very true. Often times when I am doing intense homework, such as studing for a test, I find it very helpful if I put on quiet music in the back ground. It helps me stay in a good, concentrated mood while studing and I am able to stay undistracted. A lot of times hwen I am listeing to a lecture, I know it helps to keep me from daydreaming, by doodling and playing with little odds and ends like strings and pieces of clay. There will always be people who think they know it all and believe that those doodling or listening to music are just bad studiers, but what ever works for you shouldn't matter to other people as long as your doing a good job and staying on task. You shouldn't care what they have to think or say about you.

I must agree with Angelynn, studying while listening to music is very helpful, but while studying for a test it can be debatable. While it will help you associate the things you are studying to the music, you most likely will not have that music while taking the test. Then the ways to recall what you studied or need to know are if you actually know it for memory, or you start singing the tune in your head. Most likely when you do this, you get very distracted from doing your test, by concentrating on the song in your head rather than doing the test.
I myself listen to my music while doing homework and/or studying. I do it because it helps me block out other noises, and sounds so that I can concentrate on my work. I usually chose either something very soft such as 'smooth' jazz, or music I am very familiar with and have heard many times over. This allows me to concentrate on the work at hand, rather than the new/'hip' tune. I also listen to the music subconsciously and try to associate symbols and layouts when I study.
I have also noticed that other people while either working on homework, or a assignment of some sort on the computer, have other distractions such as the tv on in the background. I'm not quite sure why they feel this helps them, but I feel that it would distract you from your work rather than help keep you in check.
All in all, I feel that listening to music is more appropriate in some types of studying/work rather than others.

That was a really good article. I am an avid doodler and I get crap from my teachers about paying attention and not drawing. Now I wonder if the bigger problem here is not the doodling and the listening to music. But the fact that the older generations aren't really aware of what helps us kids from the internet generation. If this is true then that means that maybe we are going about education in the wrong matter. I would go so far as to wonder if maybe schools reorganized there curiculum to incoperate things more relevant to the current time that it would be easier for us to understand. Its just the thing I can see happening is this becoming a conflict of generations. Us vs them. This bothers me. So if you ever get the chance I would love to hear you input on this. Thanks!

This article has relieved me since I am BIG DOODLER. I have recently notice that my teachers put on soothing music while we are doing are classwork . This helps me concentrate a lot. I sometimes also find myself doodling my name while my teacher is lecturing. And surprisingly I find myself retaining the information taught. I think all parents and teachers need to read this article and maybe they wont be so judgmental towards doodlers.

I can understand this post because I have been told several times by my parents that I should turn my music off while I am doing my homework. They tell me that I am not giving the assignment my full attention and that I am not focused. However, I find that the music helps me focus better. I also find myself doodling during class. I was surprised to read that those who doodle recall information and perform tasks better. I highly doubt that teachers will start to allow doodling in their classrooms, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Doodling in class does attract unwanted attention from teachers in a bad way. One could be called out for it and blamed for not paying attention when in reality it is helping more so than sitting bored with your mind off on a tangent. The idea of self-fulfilling prophecy also holds true. When a student or any individual is looked at in one way and labeled as such it caused the individual to act in the way he or she is expected to act. Good or bad, labeling others or giving people signs that let them know how you feel about them is wrong in many ways. Like with the "roughnecks" vs the "saints"; both groups of kids performed similar devious acts. However the roughnecks were always seen by their towns people because they could not leave town like the saints could. The saints would perform the same devious acts in a different town and when they returned home their locals would not know that they had been devious. They had been labeled. The roughnecks would always be the devious kids, while the saints knew they could get away with whatever they wanted as long as no one they knew caught them.

This is was a great article. I believe that music and doodling are of great help when it comes to studying. Ofcourse as it was mentioned before some teachers nad parents don't seem to agree. They think it is a wrong mistake to be listening to music while studying for an exam because it does not allow you to fully focus on studying.
In my case,I enjoy doodling in class and as a result it helps me focus better on lectures and I do better in the class. Usually, after I am done writing notes in class and done with the classwork I begin to doodle all around my notes and make it so decorative that it actually makes me go over my notes after class. When I do homework in my house I also love putting background music to help me relax at the same time that I study. It just changes the whole atmosphere from boring to entertaing. The danger with music when I put it on is that I begin to sing along with certain songs and I stop doing my homework. Who cares though, a short four minute break does not hurt anyone.
It is so true that people always get labeled somehow by other around them.Someone might see a person doodling and say " what a distracted person, they should be alert of what is going around them".These type of labels or comments can lead the person being labeled to change their action in a bad way as we already saw with the example of the "roughnecks" and the "saints". Let's just say that the person that was called a "distracted person" stopped doodling and instead started staring off in space as they say and start looking around the classroom watching people talk, people putting make-up on, people sleeping. They would be alert of what is going on, but wouldn't they be more distracted? Wouln't it just be better to doodle and listen to what the professor is saying?
People should be careful in labeling others because the self fulfilling prophecy can come in place and lead to bad results.

Every kid knows that doodling and music help to keep awake during a mundane studying session, but is this fact something that we deny as we get older? I believe so. It is less socially acceptable for an adult to doodle and jam at the office than for younger students and since adults can no longer enjoy these simple pleasures, they try to deny it to us bright eyed little leaugers.
As far as labeling, I don't really think it is a big issue when it comes to doodlers and nondoodlers. I know a many doodler who is top of the class. The labeling to me comes from the vartiation a things doodled; whether it be Japanese caricature, Trekky spaceships, daisies, trees, or murder scenes. One can read a lot into the content of which a person doodles.
For example, in Pearl Jam's song Jeremy Eddie Vedder starts off with describing a doodle by Jeremy. "mountains with people on top, lemon yellow sun, arms stretched in a V..." and goes on to call him King Jeremy the Wicked. This kid had some control and power issues...
If we would embrace doodling we may be able to notice things in each other that may have been bypassed before. So I say, Live and let doodle!

I never thought that doodling could actually be a good thing and help recall memory. But myself, and many of my fellow students do doodle to keep our hands busy in class while listening to the teacher. For myself, I doodle because if I don't I know I'll be more tempted to talk and be a disruption for the class. Knowing now that my doodling is actually benefiting me, I'll keep at it and tell others to as well.

I had never heard of Chambliss' study on the labeling effect, but it certainly illustrates that it is a social phenomenon instead of an internal phenomenon. Particularly in the case of education, where stratification occurs based on limited information, the labeling effect should be avoided. Even in the event of necessary divides into classes of varying degrees of difficulty, an effort should be made to challenge every student to a point where they engage in their education. It is very true that treating one class as "less" than another is counterproductive, and does not make for success or performance.

I agree. Self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that results in behavior that makes the prediction come true. If students are placed at lower educational goals or tasks, then they will do things to keep themselves there. Even if they are capable of doing more, they become satisfied with what others expect of them to try and do more. For example, my family expects highly of me. Thus, I complete all of my homework by the due date, arrive to class on time, raise my hand, politely speak to my teachers, and strive to get all A’s. If my parents didn’t really care about my education, then I might chose to slack off because I wouldn’t have any set expectations.

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