Boost your Memory with Drawing

Author: Ezgi ALPAY, UX / UI Designer

People’s drawing habit evolved from ancient times. This journey starts with cave paintings (also known as “parietal art“), to some 40,000 years ago. (1)  The exact purpose of the cave paintings is not known. Some theories hold that; cave paintings may have been a way of communicating with others, expressing their feelings and fears. Maybe we use the same thinking patterns with our ancestors, today we are surrounded by this tool when we go to work, in the lunch and maybe before going the sleep. We use “images or symbols” to make our communications more understandable but we don’t practice “drawing” as a tool in our daily life. Most of the time, we don’t draw a single line in a whole day. And herein question is; why don’t we practice this tool to communicate effectively? Or to remember things better?

In fact, today we are lucky about that; we are surrounded by the; syllabograms (signs used to write the syllables of a word like Japanese Kana or Maya alphabet), ideograms (emoji), symbols or logograms (which denote a word or phrase) and many other visual forms. (2)  

We use it, in our smartphones to give clear messages in addition to our words or with strong visuals in our power points slide to give an effective speech.  More than 2000 years ago, Romans and Greeks used “loci method (Memory Palace) to memorize and give speeches that could last for hours. The method of loci is essentially a visual filing system, allowing you to memorize and recall a virtually unlimited number of items in a fixed order. (3)

Visuals don’t let misunderstandings. Visuals, don’t let something to be forgotten.

Probably the best example; “emojis” which is one of the tools to express our feelings or emotions in digital platforms. Only text is not enough in communications especially if there is a distance between sender and receiver.

Let’s try to think about this drawing issue from another perspective. Let’s start with people’s habits through words and drawings. As humans, we have been dreaming in images and saw images long before we learned words and letters. Today, how we encode information in our mind is important.

Even though, we dream through images and perceive the world as it leads; we use writing for communication and for reminders. Actually, we use writing for most of the cases, what about drawing? Our representatives depend on images. If we would draw our reminders, could it be more long-lasting?  Researchers said: Yes, it will ! (4)   Research has shown that we remember visual images much easier and better than words. Researchers figured out that simply drawing pictures of what you want to remember will help you recall twice as much information, compared to just writing.(5)  This technique will help us create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information.

In picture “01”, the diagram explains waterfall model, one of the software development methodology, in detail but with fewer words. In a meeting, unless participants have a special interest in that topic, normally they hardly remember topics in detail. Visuals help to recall the information.

I take notes almost every day. Normally instead of drawing, I take notes in writing (because it is easier and fast). But what am I doing exactly?  I’m just copying. I just take the words which I hear and put them into a paper in order. Or randomly. But here the point is, in fact, I don’t put any extra information or idea what I have been told.  After a while, I can’t remember and turn back to my notes. Sometimes, even, I took notes in detail, I couldn’t remember what was all about. But taking notes in drawings, schemes and visual representatives doesn’t let that happen. Intellectual and emotional connections help people remember better.

Here, some of the notes, I have taken this week. For example; in picture “02” one of the plug-ins I wanted to download later. This simple symbol boost the meaning and this is helping me to remember the word easily; it is a good memory practice and less time and effort consumption. Because if I wouldn’t add that little symbol to my note, I could need more time to remember plugins exact name.   In another example, Picture “03”, It is obvious that we have a project and also it is obvious that starting or going to start soon. These simple notes with symbol + letter reminders help me a lot. But you can also try it only with symbols, drawings or else. Sometimes if I had a note that written full letters, I don’t want to look at it later. It seems so long and complicated so I just skip. Instead these kinds of little playful notes, more understandable plus beneficial for brain function.

    

Maybe we need to draw or try to use visual representatives in our lives a little bit more. In our work or daily life, we can find new communication ways with exploring different angles, perspectives, lines and geometries to express our ideas.

 

References:
1 )  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_painting
      http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/prehistoric/cave-painting.htm
2)   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logogram
3)   http://remembereverything.org/memory-palace-the-method-of-loci/
4)   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3552371/The-simple-trick-dramatically-boost-memory-Scientist-s-say-DRAWING-want-remember-key.html
5)   http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17470218.2015.1094494

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