“Doodles” are random drawings or scribbles made while a person’s attention is otherwise occupied.

The word doodle first appeared in the early 1600s to mean a fool or simpleton. It may derive from the German Dudeltopf or Dudeldop, meaning simpleton or noodle. It is the origin of the early 1700s verb to doodle, meaning “to swindle or to make a fool of.” The modern meaning emerged as a term for a politician who was doing nothing in office at the expense of his constituents. That led to the more generalized verb “to doodle,” which means to do nothing.

The meaning “fool, simpleton” is intended in the song title Yankee Doodle, originally sung by British colonial troops during the American Revolutionary War.

Doodling and scribbling are often associated with young children, because of their lack of hand–eye coordination. But adults do it often, too, sometimes out of boredom. Kids doodle on school notebooks during lectures. Adults doodle during long telephone conversations. The doodles themselves include everything: cartoon versions of people, landscapes, geometric shapes, patterns, textures. Most people who doodle often remake the same shape or type of doodle throughout their lifetime.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, doodling can act as a mediator between thinking too much or thinking too little. In other words, it helps us focus on the current situation. Creating visual depictions of information may allow for a deeper understanding of material being learned.

Doodling can be used as a stress relieving technique. This is similar to other motor activities such as fidgeting or pacing that are also used to alleviate mental stress. Doodling is often incorporated into art therapy, allowing its users to slow down, focus and de-stress.

Alexander Pushkin’s notebooks are celebrated for their superabundance of marginal doodles, which include sketches of friends’ profiles, hands, and feet. These notebooks are regarded as a work of art in their own right.

I’ll never enter the art world that way. You can’t doodle in word processing software.

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