Do the hokey pokey with your hands so you think like whizz

gestures help you thinkRemember the days when you counted using your fingers ?

Most of us are forced to outgrow the habit, because the powers that be, frown upon it, but hand gestures are often the best way to think.

This week’s Neurotechnology Tip encourages you to wave those hands about when you need to think big – you’re way more likely to solve that problem.

This is the finding of researchers based at the University of Birmingham, in England

Gesturing is natural

Gestures are something that you do naturally – it is not something you have to be taught. In fact, when the research team spied on 132 students attempting to “solve” a few problems.

Hidden cameras that recorded the number of hand gestures used by the individuals, revealed as the problems became more difficult, the number of spontaneous gestures increased.

Gesturing creates genius

Researchers divided 66 university students into three groups

  • Group 1 were encouraged to use gestures
  • Group 2 were not given any particular instructions
  • Group 3 were told to “sit” on their hands, literally, to prevent gesturing.

The students then had to complete a number of tests.

The group encouraged to use gestures significantly out performed the other two groups.

Seeing the big picture

We are wired to think in pictures – so mentally rotating or moving an object to a different position or view, is highly do-able IN YOUR HEAD.

But doing them in your head requires a great deal of concentrating. Concentrating that is taxing and arduous.

Flailing your hands about, like a “mad-man”, whilst you’re busy doing the mental gymnastics of special visualization, helps keep the brain focused.

And a focused brain is a lot more likely to solve that problem.

A touch of reality

The team speculate that in addition to helping the brain keep track of items, it also helps the brain think “realistically”.

We hold things all day long and get a feel for how items behave “naturally” i.e. how items obey the laws of physics.

Swinging your hands around, imagining you have the item of interest firmly grasped in your sticky paw, helps the brain connect with reality. A reality check increases the odds that your final solution will be “logical”.

Use gesturing in the classroom

Sitting still is the preferred modus operandi in a classroom / exam environment.

But it might be time to DISOBEY a little, especially when you’re trying to solve a maths or physics problem or you’re aiming to BE CREATIVE.

Don’t be afraid to raise a few eye brows

  • If you’ve got to figure out a magnetic field, see the magnet and then draw the magnetic lines in the air.
  • If you’re drawing a bowl of fruit, move the fruit around in the air to create a master piece.

Don’t just play air guitar in your bedroom, use a little neurotechnology and start playing air physics in the classroom.

PS. This is another tip that might not fly in the traditional classroom, so here is the reference if your need some scientific proof to explain your strange behaviour.

The Nature of Gestures’ Beneficial Role in Spatial Problem Solving. Journal of Experimental Psychology, General (2011) 140 (1):102-116.  Mingyuan Chu and Sotaro Kita.

To wire up your brain a little each week ………………..

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Did you learn something new or do you have a different perspective ? I’d love to hear from you so post me a comment below

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