Do Doodles Tell Us Anything About A President?

Do Doodles Tell Us Anything About A President?

Hackers have purportedly gotten their hands on some of President Bill Clinton’s 1990s-era doodles. The man, it seems, scribbled a fry cook, a dragon slayer and a man with an exposed penis on one document. I won’t lie and tell you I’m not curious.

Though far less imaginative than the former president, I’m a doodler myself. If you are too, you might be pleased to learn that a study from the Applied Cognitive Psychology journal a few years ago found that serial doodlers remember more than nondoodlers when asked to “retain tediously delivered information, like, say, during a boring meeting or a lecture.” The authors of the study believe that doodling should be encouraged during boring meetings.

Presidents are probably subjected to more tediously delivered information than anyone in the country, so it’s no surprise that many of them were doodlers. But do the scribbles tell us anything important? While the science is pretty clear on the question of connections between your handwriting and personality — there is none —  the significance of drawing is mixed bag. Then again, I did uncover some pseudoscience that might help us pretend to unlock the meaning of spontaneous scrawling.

For instance:

“The expression on a doodled face is often a good indication of the mood or character of the person who has drawn it. A nicely drawn, good-looking face suggests you see the good in others.”

“If you sketch weird or ugly faces, you are probably mistrustful.”

“Soft, rounded petals around a circular flower centre suggest an amiable, family-centric person.”

And so on.

Whatever the case, as far as presidents go, doodles “are often the last remnants of unconscious, unscripted presidential writing,” David Greenberg, a historian who examined 200 years of presidential scribblings in a book called Presidential Doodles, told ABC back in 2006. That sounds serious. And judging from the small sampling below, it seems conceivable that sometimes doodles may actually clue us in to how presidents viewed themselves, or perhaps what was on their unconscious minds at the time.

For example:

Teddy Roosevelt, bully.



Warren Harding, ostrich watcher.




Herbert Hoover, engineer.


FDR, Assistant Secretary of the Navy.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, super hero.



JFK, Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam.





Ronald Reagan, cowboy.


Bill Clinton, ?.


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David Harsanyi is a former Senior Editor at The Federalist. He is the author of First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun. Follow him on Twitter.
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