Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Reader 1

Laura Johnson

Reader 2

Kasper Kovitz

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Previous cognitive science research has shown the “drawing effect,” in which people tend to have better recall for something they’ve drawn rather than written. The drawing effect is an example of a “desirable difficulty,” as drawing often takes more mental effort than reading or writing. This study explored whether the drawing effect would persist for more abstract words, which might be overly difficult to draw; rather, they might be a difficulty that is no longer desirable and instead just a source of distraction or cognitive overload. Participants were presented with more abstract and less abstract science terms and alternated drawing and writing each word. Their recall was tested in two memory tasks, 24 hours apart. Contrary to what was hypothesized, there was no drawing effect shown in this study. However, there was a significant difference in recall for words that were “more abstract” versus “less abstract,” as well as a significant difference in words recalled in the second vocabulary test versus the first vocabulary test. Still, previous studies have shown great benefits from drawing and arts-integration for learning; future studies should explore the most effective ways to incorporate art and drawing into various educational settings.