When you read something confusing, or work a crossword puzzle, or try to remember where you put your keys, what do you do with your body? Do you sit? Do you stand? Do you pace? Do you do anything with your hands? Do you move your eyes in a particular pattern?
How you answer questions like these, it turns out, may determine how long it will take for you to decipher what you’re reading, solve your puzzle, or get your keys back.
The brain is often envisioned as something like a computer, and the body as its all-purpose tool. But a growing body of new research suggests that something more collaborative is going on – that we think not just with our brains, but with our bodies. A series of studies, the latest published in November, has shown that children can solve math problems better if they are told to use their hands while thinking. Another recent study suggested that stage actors remember their lines better when they are moving. And in one study published last year, subjects asked to move their eyes in a specific pattern while puzzling through a brainteaser were twice as likely to solve it.
The term most often used to describe this new model of mind is “embodied cognition,” and its champions believe it will open up entire new avenues for understanding – and enhancing – the abilities of the human mind. [complete article]