Doodling is good for thinkers

I just saw an interesting study (mentioned in Wired — see “A Sketchy Brain Booster: Doodling”) published in Applied Cognitive Psychology concluding that doodling actually aids in concentration.

The article, “What Does Doodling Do?” by Jackie Andrade of the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, UK, found that participants in an experiment could better remember a list of names read to them if they were performing a simultaneous task that simulated doodling.

What might be the underlying mechanism at work here? Andrade suggests two possibilities:

1. “that doodling simply helps to stabilize arousal at an optimal level, keeping people awake or reducing the high levels of autonomic arousal often associated with boredom”


2. “that doodling aids concentration by reducing daydreaming”

Both are interesting ideas and make me think of two current interests I have:

1. Idea mapping, sometimes called Mind Mapping (as propounded by educational consultant Tony Buzan). I have been employing this visual approach for several years now in note-taking, public speaking, writing, consulting, and group processes and have become convinced that drawing and mapping is a memory aid.

2. The language teaching methods of Harry Cotton of the Canadian Institute of English. Dr. Cotton advocates involving body movement to aid retention when learning to speak a foreign language.

AB — 27 February 2009


Idea Mapping — basics and some resources

For several years, I have been using a process called idea mapping as a thinking tool. This is related to Mind Mapping, the brainchild of Tony Buzan. (See this page for some great examples of Mind Maps.)

I would describe idea mapping as a set of visual methods for thinking. I employ idea mapping in many kinds of settings — planning, outlining, note-taking, public speaking, writing, consulting, and leading group process. When working alone, I use unlined drawing paper and colored markers. When working with groups, I use a white board or large sheets of paper with colored markers.

Here are some books I recommend on this topic:

The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential, by Tony and Barry Buzan

Mapping Inner Space: Learning and Teaching Visual Mapping, by Nancy Margulies and Nusa Maal

AB — 27 February 2009

Is media bias making the economy worse?

Recently I raised the very gloomy question whether the whole economy is one big bubble.

This got me thinking about the roles of optimism and pessimism in the ups and downs of the economy. Often I hear people claim (or at least express the fear) that all the pessimistic media coverage about the current economic turmoil is actually making things worse. A cynic might point to this claim as yet more evidence of Bubbleconomics at work.

This article by Faye Mallett of the Galt Global Review raises the question,

Could media be held legally liable if exaggerated reports of the global economic crisis prove to further decrease consumer confidence and actually worsen the situation?

(The date of Mallett’s article is given as January 13, 2008, but I’m pretty sure 2009 is meant, so the article is probably more current than one might think.)

Mallett cites research supposedly demonstrating that the media are biased toward economic pessimism in the current economic crisis. On the other hand, media during the Great Depression “invoked a much more positive and optimistic outlook,” she writes.

I read a certain irony into that: Is it possible that the overly positive press in 1929 blinded people to the reality of how bad things really were?

As a source, Mallett references a report from the Business & Media Institute (BMI), “The Great Media Depression.” BMI’s web site describes the organization as devoted to “analyzing and exposing the anti-free enterprise culture of the media.”

AB — 23 February 2009

Some documentaries that make you think

I’ve been meaning to make note of some striking documentary films from the past couple of years. If this makes sense, one thing they have in common is their diversity of viewpoint. Another point is their uniqueness of viewpoint — all of them really make you think.

Sicko — Michael Moore’s exposé of U.S. healthcare — and an opportunity to see Moore’s work in a non-R-rated production.

Knocking — A rare non-biased look at an unpopular minority religion.

Expelled — Ben Stein’s controversial movie about Intelligent Design.

What Would Jesus Buy? — An inside look at Reverend Billy Talen, his Church of Stop Shopping, and their anti-consumerism message.

AB — 16 February 2009

Video Highlights Barriers to Innovation

This video about an engineer trying to get management at NASA to pay attention to a new idea highlights organizational barriers to innovation.

The basic objection she meets up with is, ‘That’s just not the way we do things here.’

The acting and editing are not so hot, but I understand that the video has stimulated a lot of interest and discussion at NASA.

AB — 9 February 2009