Pictionary might be on to something. According to a series of studies published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, the best way to remember something might be to draw it.
In the first experiment, researchers from the University of Waterloo presented students with a list of simple, easily drawn words like “airplane” and “pumpkin.” The students were given 40 seconds and instructed to either draw the word in detail, or write it out as many times as they could. Next, the students were given a “filler task” of identifying musical tones. Finally, the researchers had students attempt to remember as many words as they could from the earlier list. They found that subjects remembered more than double the proportion of words drawn than words written down.
In variations of the experiment in which students drew the words over and over again, or were asked to write the words one time each, adding visual detail to the letters (like shading or relevant doodles), the same results emerged. Drawing dominated, not only against writing, but also against visualizing the words or describing them.
The researchers write in the study: “We argue that the mechanism driving the effect is that engaging in drawing promotes the seamless integration of many types of memory codes (elaboration, visual imagery, motor action, and picture memory) into one cohesive memory trace, and it is this that facilitates later retrieval of the studied words.”
While we've yet to see the day-to-day implications of the research, it's safe to say that if you're interested in honing those memory skills, it might be time to invest in a drawing class.
[h/t BPS Research Digest]