Study Suggests Drawing Can Improve Memory

(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

There are many things that you can do to help improve your memory. According to researchers at the University of Waterloo, drawing pictures of things that you need to remember can be a strong and reliable way to boost your memory of that information.

Drawing As a Memory Aid

The study involved giving participants a list of simple and easy to draw words—think things like “apple” or “banana.” Each participant was then given 40 seconds to either write the word repeatedly or draw a picture of it.

A filler task was then given that involved classifying different musical tones. After the filler task, the participants were asked to use free recall to remember as many of the words from the earlier list during a 60 second period.

The researchers found that words that had been drawn were far more likely to be remembered than those that were simply written down. The results indicated that participants were able to remember almost twice as many of the drawn words compared to the written ones.

The researchers dubbed this “the drawing effect,” suggesting that drawing information has a distinct advantage when it comes to memorization.

Drawing vs. Other Memory Strategies

“We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top,” explained Jeffrey Wammes, Ph.D. candidate and lead author of the study. “We believe that the benefit arises because drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information.”

So the next time you are studying a list of vocabulary words, consider doodling in the margins of your notes to help aid in recall.


Manning N. Need to remember something? Better draw it, study finds. Waterloo News. Published April 21, 2016.

Wammes JD, Meade ME, Fernandes MA. The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 2016;69(9):1752. doi:10.1080/17470218.2015.1094494

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