Skip to main content

Creative Memory Trick

JUST DRAW IT! A study shows that drawing a picture helps you make a memory. ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

The brain is easily the most complicated organ in your body and the nimblest computer that has ever existed. But no matter how powerful its operating system, its storage system stinks.

Memory is imperfect. It depends on how rested we are, how attentive we are, and a range of other things. Now a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests an unusual strategy for improving it: drawing.

As long ago as 1973, investigators confirmed that thinking about an object and drawing a picture of it can make us remember it better. A group led by psychologist Jeffrey Wammes ran the new study. One result remained the same throughout the trials: Drawing the object beat every other option, every single time. "We observed a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written," said Wammes in a prepared statement. "Participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn words."

Just why this is so is not clear, and more study is needed. For now, researchers know only that the technique works—providing a long-awaited software patch for the computer inside your head.