Memory drawing incorporated into art therapy

Lecture

Dr Unnur Ottarsdottir, art therapist, teacher and artist, gives lectures on “Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing”, in which research findings about drawing and memory will be introduced. The lecture is open to everyone interested.

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The research was conducted by Ottarsdottir in two related parts. One hundred and thirty-four subjects participated in the part of the study where they were asked to draw the content of certain words and write other words down. Some subjects were asked to remember after three weeks what they had written and drawn, and others after nine weeks. In both cases, words that were drawn were generally recalled much more successfully than words that were written. Drawing was generally as much as five times more effective than writing when recalled nine weeks after the original memorisation. To the best of knowledge, research regarding such long-term memory of drawings has not been conducted worldwide, prior to now.

In the other related part of the research, Ottarsdottir conducted a qualitative study with five children who had experienced stress or trauma and had specific learning difficulties. The children drew pictures partly to memorise coursework material. Indications were found that such drawing could facilitate processing of emotions associated with difficult or traumatic experiences.

Art therapy theories and methods were found to be important in order to understand the memory drawing process. It appears that drawing, in art therapy, provides sufficient safety so that children often manage to express vulnerable and complex feelings more easily through drawing than they do through speaking. The memory drawing research is contextualised within the literature on related research studies, methods and theories.

Participants in the lecture will be invited to take part in a drawing/writing exercise that explains the way in which the quantitative part of the research was conducted. The exercise provides insight into the functions of memorising through drawing and writing.

The full paper on the research, “Processing Emotions and Memorising Coursework through Memory Drawing”, was published in ATOL: Art Therapy OnLine, and can be viewed here. Ottarsdottir is available for interviews and giving lectures on demand, about the memory drawing research. To schedule an interview or a lecture, feel free to contact her through email unnur@unnurarttherapy.is or by phone at +354 8670277.

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