Alastor Moody


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Need to remember something? Better draw it, study finds


Researchers at the University of Waterloo have found that drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered is a strong and reliable strategy to enhance memory.


"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."

“我们将画画与其他已知的记忆编码手段做了对比,画画总是能胜出,” Jeffrey Wammes(研究组的带头人、心理学系的博士生)说,“我们相信画画具有优势,因为画画把视觉、运动神经、语义信息结合起来,创造出完整的记忆痕迹。

The study, by Wammes, along with fellow PhD candidate Melissa Meade and Professor Myra Fernandes, presented student participants with a list of simple, easily drawn words, suchas "apple." The 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, the researchers asked students to freely recall as many words as possible from the initial listin just 60 seconds.

Wammes带领博士生Melissa Meade和Myra Fernandes教授给参与研究的学生一个单词列表,这些单词很容易画出来,比如“苹果”。学生有40秒的时间,可以选择画出单词,也可以选择重复的写单词,接着让他们填写一个给乐音分类的表格以促进记忆进程。最后,研究者让他们在60秒内尽可能地回忆那个单词列表的内容。

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


"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."


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. 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.


"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. 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," said Wammes.


While the drawing effect proved reliable in testing, the experiments were conducted with single words only. Wammes and his team are currently trying to determine why this memory benefit is so potent, and how widely it can be applied to other types of information.