New study shows it’s a doddle if you doodle

Published: 27 April 2016 at 15:07

Picture of a lady sketching

Anglia Ruskin psychologist investigates role of sketching in the creative process

New research shows that sketching while carrying out a creative task makes the process seem easier.  

The study, to be published in the May edition of the journal Consciousness and Cognition, was co-authored by Dr David Pearson of Anglia Ruskin University. 

The research found that a significant benefit of sketching is its positive motivational effect by facilitating “flow”.  

The psychological concept of flow describes a state of consciousness where someone is completely absorbed and energised while performing an activity.

The new study involved participants carrying out a number of drawing tasks, with some being allowed to sketch ideas before committing to a final design and others having to rely solely on mental imagery before putting their design on paper.

The psychologists discovered that flow increased by 12% for those allowed to sketch over those reliant on mental imagery.

The participants who sketched were more likely to believe there is a good fit between their creative skills and the demands of the tasks, although there was no advantage in terms of overall creative performance.

Dr Pearson, Reader in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 

“Having to rely on mental imagery rather than sketching did not have a negative effect on the quality or quantity of what was produced.  

“After all, Beethoven and Monet were deaf and blind, respectively, when they created some of their most famous masterpieces, while Einstein carried out many thought experiments using only his imagination.

“However, our study shows that sketching makes the design process seem easier, and reducing the perception of difficulty is an important function in the development of flow.  

“Therefore sketching can be seen as a motivating influence on the creative process which could encourage perseverance and increase enjoyment in the task.”