Doodle Now – Learn More (RJS)

I am at a conference this week – and that means not a lot of time to put together a post today.  Consider this my limited version of Scot’s Weekly Meanderings. I recently came across a few articles that are worth a glance – two describing scientific research published in the primary literature and the third advocating an innovative approach to education.

Women play dumb in pursuit of romance.  OK that isn’t quite the title – it is a little more academic: Effects of Everyday Romantic Goal Pursuit on Women’s Attitudes Toward Math and Science. The paper reports on three studies that examined the relationship between romantic pursuits and attitudes towards science, engineering, and math.  The purpose was to test a hypothesis that women may play dumb – “because pursuing intelligence goals in masculine domains (i.e., STEM) conflicts with pursuing romantic goals.”  You can see the abstract at the link above but the full article requires an institutional subscription. Here are a couple of links to reports about the article though: Women’s Quest for Romance Conflicts with Scientific Pursuits, Study Finds and Women’s Quest to Be ‘Romantically Desirable’ Can Conflict With Scientific Pursuits, Study Suggests.

As a woman, a professor and scientist, and as one who grew up through an era where the scenario of a girl playing dumb to be popular with a boy (or even a wife playing dumb to please her husband) was a common sitcom theme, this strikes close to home. This article also popped into my mind repeatedly as I read some of the comments on the post Monday, Women and Reading Passages Honestly. At least a few times the conversation strayed to the idea that women need to step back so men can grow in confidence.

What do you think about this article? Should women step back to let men shine?

Is this necessary in romance?

Is this part of the mutual submission taught in scripture?

Another article on a related theme appeared on the PNAS site (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), published online before in print: Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities. Again the article requires a subscription, but there are reports available from other sources: Gender Gap Vanishes in Female-Empowered Cultures. Women are underrepresented in science and engineering fields and some have argued that this arises from innate biological differences in spatial ability. The study reported in this article compared spatial ability in two similar societies in Northeast India, one patrilineal and one matrilineal. In this study the gender gap in spatial abilities disappears in the matrilineal study. From these results the authors argue for a significant role for nurture in the cultivation of cognitive abilities.

This isn’t to argue that men and women are identical. We certainly are not. But many of the so-called masculine traits, especially those that deal with intelligence and intellectual ability are deeply affected by cultural norms.

And now the title feature. What does this have to do with doodling you may ask. Not much I suppose – but my final link gets to the article that gave the title to the post.  This one should be of interest to many – especially pastors and teachers. You thought all those people doodling all over the bulletin or other paper where daydreaming during your sermon? Think again – perhaps you should encourage it. This paper Drawing to Learn in Science published in Science Magazine’s Education Forum explores the relationship between doodling and learning. Once again the original article requires a personal or institutional subscription, but you can read a short synopsis here People who doodle learn faster.

The article describes several reasons why doodling enhances learning,

  • Drawing enhances engagement
  • Drawing helps students learn to represent the material
  • Drawing helps develop conceptual understanding
  • Drawing is a learning strategy helping to organize and integrate the material
  • Drawing helps people learn to communicate

The article applies this to science education and suggests that learning to draw will enhance learning across the spectrum.

The doodles in the image above come from wikipedia with the description: Various doodles drawn during an afternoon math lecture. Includes references to rock bands Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand, The Beatles and Pink Floyd, along with a slight nod to Something Awful and a strange caricature of Abraham Lincoln. (This is not the kind of doodling in class advocated in the article.)

Do you find doodling a useful tool in learning?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

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  • Jason Lee

    Interesting post. I’d be interested in what the authors use as their social mechanism linking matrilineal settings and increased spatial abilities. I’d imagine part of what’s going on is that the matrilineal settings are removing some of the more noxious dynamics that tend to come with patrilineal settings.

  • On doodling: I have four years worth of notes from my time in Seminary and they are 80% illustrations. I started drawing based on a lecture in an early Church history class and realized how much more I was engaged in the class so I started doing it in all my classes. I joke often that I doodled my way to an M.Div.

    As a secondary benefit, I’ve flipped through my notes recently and after being 2 years removed from school I find that the drawings work well to refresh my brain as to what I learned. I can get into the material in a snapshot rather than having to skim pages of written notes.

  • phil_style

    I have no idea why our culture perpetuates this myth that guys prefer romantic engagement with women who are less smart.

    It’s a sexist attitude to assume that men are all brutes who want “dumber” partners.

  • Joe Canner

    Before we started dating, my wife was taking a college class that I was teaching and she would make up excuses to come visit me during my office hours. So, I suppose you could say she was “playing dumb in pursuit of romance”. That said, she never played dumb to make herself more attractive to me and I’m pretty sure if she (or anyone else) had done that it would have had the opposite effect.

    Here is another news item related to this topic…

  • Jason Lee

    phil_style (#3): Saying men tend to go for partners that don’t outshine them in certain areas doesn’t necessarily mean men are brutes or desire this state of affairs. It may be a cultural value system where men are looked down on by peers, etc… if they are seen to marry up cognitively or occupationally. Men are perhaps under a lot of cultural pressure not to look weak or dependent on others.

  • rjs


    I don’t think it is entirely myth – although I think it is somewhat less overt than 30 or 60 or 90 years ago. Dorothy Sayers reflected on this some in Gaudy Night. It was her reality.

    In my personal experience there is some truth. In another example my husband was at a father-son retreat many years ago – and coming back told me about a conversation asking how he could handle having a wife smarter than him. Now my husband is a smart man and we complement each other very well – but math and science isn’t his thing, it is mine. For some this is a problem.

  • Pat Pope

    Although I was horrible at math growing up and did a lot of self-defeating talk, I went on to college and then seminary and did quite well. Of course, in undegrad I was a liberal arts major, but nontheless, I know that I’m not dumb just because math is not my forte. I also realize now that a lot of my trouble growing up was the self-defeating talk. I’ve learned and continue to learn to overcome those thoughts which have held me back in other ways. Oddly enough, I actually enjoy intellectual pursuits and cringe at the dumb woman that’s played up in the media and that I see played out in every day life by some women. Women should not step back to let men shine. I think to do so is dishonest. Rather, I think both should engage and build each other up appropriately. When it comes to romance, I desire a mate who can hold a conversation and holds some of the same interests that I do with regard to faith. If a man can’t handle my intellect, then so be it. I will not cow-tow as some women do or play dumb just to get a man. I’ve come too far in life to go backwards for the sake of another’s ego. If that means remaining single, then so be it.

  • Liz K.

    I’ve done graduate work in theology and have many other female friends who have done the same in theology or related fields. Without exception, every female I have met who has also done advanced study has been told by a male family member that her education will hurt her chances of marrying. Now several of those friends have married and they’ve married men that appreciate their stellar intellects, but the fact that everyone had a male family member who felt the need to warn them tells me that this sort of research is on to something.

  • Amanda F

    Several years ago I had a Christian brother tell me that if I ever wanted to get married, I would need to dumb it down a lot. I brushed it off and of course I know it’s a total lie, but it does still haunt me occasionally.

  • Christians for Biblical Equality is a group of human beings, male and female, who do a brilliant job addressing these issues.

    Two of the favorite things I have learned from them.

    1. Q. “Dad, how do I know if something is masculine or feminine? ”
    A. “Son, if I am doing it it is masculine. If Mom is doing it it is feminine. For example, if I am washing the dishes, then washing the dishes is masculine. If your mom is washing the dishes, then washing the dishes it is feminine. Masculine and feminine are about who not what.”

    2. There are more differences between women and more differences between men than there are differences between men and women. (thinking bell curve here)

    CBE saved my sanity and has helped me tremendously to NOT be furious with the church. They helped me realize that that pastor in the front of the church was just spouting what he had been taught and he had not done the proper research. Wearing my rose colored glasses I had been of the opinion that seminary was a place for people to explore. Then the umph hit the SBC fan and I realized that thinking was NOT why people went to seminary, but they went there to be indoctrinated into a narrow set of beliefs. When I realized it was not malicious but ignorance it helped me not be so angry. I really wish more leadership would spend more time reading outside of their traditions. sigh.

  • Okay, I am sorry for writing twice, but these are ALL my hot buttons. I am the queen of doodles. I got in trouble more than once for doodling on the fruit that my mom kept in a bowl next to the telephone back in the dark ages when kids talked on telephones with cords.

    My sister ministers to strippers in Austin, TX and every year we knit (scarves, wrist warmers, hats, etc. each year something new) for about 400/500 women in the clubs. I have found that knitting works very much like doodling. Once you have the pattern down it doesn’t take concerted thought and it allows much of the same benefits as doodling. Great while watching television or visiting with friends.

    If anybody out there is a knitter and wants to help, there is always room for one more.

  • Dana

    This is a little off topic, but:

    I don’t dress as well as I could.

    I don’t style my hair or use makeup to my best advantage.

    I am capable of using better grammar and vocabulary than I usually do.

    I drive a car that is less expensive than I can afford.

    I live in a house that is less expensive than I can afford.

    Living this way has helped me to identify the people I want to get to know better. Plenty of people don’t have an interest in me because I don’t measure up to some standard. Other people find me less intimidating and more approachable.

    I don’t think that women should play dumb to land a man, but sometimes holding something back isn’t the dumbest thing a person can do.

  • I’m not sure why anyone would purposely seek out a spouse who is less intelligent unless they were either intellectually lazy and/or had some bad intentions in mind. If this is indeed the case, it might just be another proof of fallen human nature.

    Or, maybe it illustrates the extent to which many women will go to be loved despite some form of abuse… which could be in line with the curse of Genesis 3:16 seen as what will happen instead of God’s original intention for the relationship between men and women.

  • DRT

    Wow, its hard to answer this post without sounding like an arrogant pig (at least for me).

    I am an engineer and MBA and my wife is not college educated. My wife is an artist but regularly finds tests for us to take so she can prove she is just as smart as me.

    Having said that, my specialty is spatial relations. Statics, dynamics, mechanics, yeah! People always joke with me that machines are afraid of me, you see, I have the knack.

    I have three kids, son, daughter, son in that order. I always thought that my sons would have the spatial relations thing going but, as it turns out, it is my daughter that has spatial relations. She won her science fair in kindergarten (on her own) and had perfect mechanics in throwing motion etc. And all of that, she is a girlie girl. Go figure.

    The amazing thing that is coming out as my daughter is in high school is that she absolutely rocks at sculpture. Her spatial relations shine through in sculpting anything.

    Last thing. Since I am an engineer and my wife is an artist you would expect that we have some cool toys. well, we do. But my favorite story was when my wife took the kids to the children’s museum. They had a crafting room there loaded with every kind of craft item imaginable. After turning the kids loose in the room for a while, they come running back to her and said “Mom, this place is amazing, they have everything. Its just like home!”

  • DRT

    Steve#13, I hear you with the spouse who is less intelligent comment, but I want to offer you one element. Many times people who are smart want to have careers since the lure of money is quite strong. I explicitly wanted a wife that would not work while we were raising kids, and it was surprisingly hard to find someone who would want that.

  • Dutch Rikkers

    I had a strong and assertive mom and have been married for 45 years to a strong and assertive wife. There was no authority conflict in my wonderfully functional Christian childhood home and no authority conflict in our own home. PTL.

  • @ DRT #15 –

    I hear you there, and I think that is a good concern (child rearing), although I’m not sure that would mean more or less intelligent. In other words, I’m not sure there is a direct link between intelligence and career drive. My wife and I are both relatively smart, but she has way more career drive than I do, although I have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. That has served us well as I was able to work my way up the ladder into good-paying corporate jobs when we were first married and she was in school, and now she has been able to support me through school and into launching an apologetics ministry through a very stable career… while I don’t mind being a stay-at-home dad (for me, it is the the end goals at the time, more than the career in some field). So, I’d probably recommend a pairing of someone with strong career drive and someone who doesn’t have that as much so that one is willing to take a break while the kids are young.