Need help studying for your next exam?
Need help studying for your next exam? Try illustrating what you’re trying to remember, as new research shows that drawing pictures can help you retain information better.
“We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top,” said lead study author Jeffrey Wammes, a PhD candidate in the department of psychology at the University of Waterloo, in a press release. “We believe that the benefit arises because drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor, and semantic information.”
This finding is based on experiments in which students were given a list of simple words (eg, apple) and 40 seconds to either draw them or write down the words repeatedly. The students then did a “filler task” related to music and were asked to try to remember as many words as possible from the list in 60 seconds.
The researchers found that students were able to recall more than twice as many of the illustrated words as the written words. They also discovered that students performed better with illustrations even when the time to draw or write was reduced and the list of words was expanded.
“We showed that people still gained a huge advantage in later memory, even when they had just 4 seconds to draw their picture,” Wammes said in the press release.
Even when the students added shading or doodles to their written notes, the illustrations still led to better retention, the researchers found.
Drawing beat out other potential study methods, such as creating mental images and viewing pictures of the objects.
Pharmacy students with poor artistic skills should have no fear, as the researchers found that the quality of the drawings did not matter.
One thing to note, however, is that the study only used single words, so future studies will have to investigate how this study method could be applied more broadly.
These findings were published in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.