To doodle is to draw shapes and lines on a piece of paper for no particular purpose. Students in class will often doodle on their notebooks and papers while the teacher is talking, perhaps because they are bored or uninterested. I didn’t often doodle in school, but I have been doodling while talking to someone on the phone for many, many years.
Interestingly, my doodles are almost always exactly the same. I draw a house, then the ground beneath the house, then a sidewalk leading up to the house. Sometimes I’ll also draw a tree next to the house. These images – house, tree, sidewalk – are actually very common drawings that children make, which is probably when I first started doing them. (It could also be possible that I have the mind of a child, which many have told me!)
I doodle two other things when talking on the phone or listening to a voice mail message. First, I always add a radio antenna on top of the house. This is probably because, since the age of 11, I have been an amateur radio operator. (Amateur radio – sometimes called ham radio – is a service that allows you to talk to other people in different states and countries by using radio waves.) The second thing I doodle (sometimes even without the house) is a series of triangles that form a small box or rectangle. I have no idea why I do that.
Are these doodles a distraction – that is, do they make you listen less carefully? It appears that they don’t. In fact, doodling appears to help you remember things while you doodle! A study in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology found that people who were asked to doodle while listening to a voicemail message remembered more of the message than those who did not doodle. One theory is that doodling provides just enough stimulation (activity that produces a response) to prevent people from being too distracted.
Some people even claim that their doodles help them remember things that happened many months or even years ago. This would not work for me, however, since I am not very creative and all my doodles are the same.