I was noticing earlier today in our Sunday home church meeting that several participants were doing something with their hands as we sat together. One was knitting, another holding an electric bass guitar which (thankfully) wasn’t turned on. Me, I was stroking the sleeping cat upon my lap.
I thought momentarily of the dinner meeting in which someone was “leaning upon Jesus.” John 21:20.
I also remembered hearing of a study from awhile back which concluded that doodling, in its several forms, was actually beneficial in maintaining attention. I believe this to be so if not done in a way which might show disrespect of disinterest toward the person(s) speaking.
Sure enough, I found an account of this research in Time magazine from 2009. It highlights another plus for the informal house church format.
Why does doodling aid memory? Andrade offers several theories, but the most persuasive is that when you doodle, you don’t daydream. Daydreaming may seem absentminded and pointless, but it actually demands a lot of the brain’s processing power. You start daydreaming about a vacation, which leads you to think about potential destinations, how you would pay for the trip, whether you could get the flight upgraded, how you might score a bigger hotel room.
These cognitions require what psychologists call “executive functioning” — for example, planning for the future and comparing costs and benefits. Doodling, in contrast, requires very few executive resources but just enough cognitive effort to keep you from daydreaming, which — if unchecked — will jump-start activity in cortical networks that will keep you from remembering what’s going on.
Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention. So the next time you’re doodling during a meeting — or twirling a pencil or checking the underside of the table for gum — and you hear that familiar admonition (“Are we bothering you?”), you can tell the boss with confidence that you’ve been paying attention to every word.