Drawing is the best way to remember things – proof!

Researchers at Waterloo University in Ontario, Canada, have discovered that drawing is the best way to remember things.

The study appeared in the the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

“We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top,” said the study’s lead author, Jeffrey Wammes, PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology. “We believe that the benefit arises because drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information.”

Wammes, along with fellow PhD candidate Melissa Meade and Professor Myra Fernandes, 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. Students were then asked 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.”

Those of us that draw often are well aware of this. There are times I can look at a drawing that I did 30 years ago and can instantly remember the smell of the room I was in and the story I was listening to on the radio, almost as if the drawing has recoded not only the image, but the time and the place as well, like magnetic tape.

Many children schools, who are visually minded, would benefit from being able to use their natural language – their visual language – to study with. Other children, it would appear from this study, would benefit from more drawing too – not colouring in pre-drawn photocopies!

if children could spend as much time learning drawing skills as they do reading and writing skills, imagine how much they could achieve!

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