Memory Drawing Research

Quantitative Study

In 2000 the year, 134 children aged between 9 and 14 participated in a quantitative study which examined the impact of drawings on memory. A comparison was made of memorizing, on the one hand, words which were written in the conventional way and, on the other hand, drawings of word content. The study was the first comprehensive study that systematically compared the impact of drawings and words on memory.

The results showed that the children generally recalled an equal number of written words and drawn words when asked to recall the words immediately after memorization. However, three weeks after the task had been completed, the children generally recalled two and a half times more drawn images of words than written words. Nine weeks later, 19 of the 134 participating children were asked to recall the words, and this time they remembered a median of five times more drawn words than written words. To the best of knowledge, this is the only worldwide study to date that has made comparisons between drawn images and written words over such an extended period of time.

Qualitative Study

Five secondary school students who were dealing with specific learning difficulties and had experienced stress and/or trauma participated in a qualitative case study. A grounded theory approach was applied when analysing the data. The aim was to develop, design, study and test an art therapy method with regard to improving children's coursework learning and emotional well-being. Memory drawings comprise part of the methods of art educational therapy.

The study indicated that memory drawings can help students remember various aspects of diverse coursework and academic subjects, such as spelling, translations of foreign words and scientific facts, for instance in relation to geography.

Memory Drawings and Art Therapy

In addition to indications that showed the way in which memory drawings can aid students’ memorization of coursework subjects, the qualitative case study also showed ways in which memory drawings can help an individual process difficult emotions and life experiences in the same way as art making in art therapy.

The theories and methods of art therapy are important for understanding and defining the memory drawing process, especially in the case of children who have experienced trauma and have insufficient support in their life. As the drawings can bring sensitive emotions to the surface, it is important that the therapist/teacher has specific understanding and knowledge of the art-making process and the importance of providing emotional support for the individual who is drawing.