Stumped? Research Suggests an Unlikely Way to Improve Your Thinking

Last Updated Jan 16, 2008 3:40 PM EST

Stumped? Research Suggests an Unlikely Way to Improve Your ThinkingWhat do you do when faced with a problem you can't solve? Wait around for inspiration? Pace? Go to lunch? While we may think what we do with our bodies has little effect on how well our brains work (assuming we're adequately nourished and rested), this week the Boston Globe is running a fascinating story that suggests we may actually think with our bodies as well as our minds:
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.... 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 article offers a fascinating peek into the new field of "embodied cognition" (as well as into our own minds). The researchers' insights may prove useful for professionals who are routinely confronted with challenging problems. Perhaps rather than sitting at your desk puzzling away, the better bet is to gesture and move. The research also applies to those, young and old, interested in how best to learn (and teach) new skills.
While embodied cognition remains a young field, some specialists believe that it suggests a rethinking of how we approach education.... one possibility is to take another look at the educational approach that Italian educator Maria Montessori laid out nearly 100 years ago... A key to the Montessori method is the idea that children learn best in a dynamic environment full of motion and the manipulation of physical objects.
(Image of the anatomy of the human head by Patrick J. Lynch, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.