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Use Your Hands If You Want To Remember Details

Use Your Hands If You Want To Remember DetailsNew research suggests the way you hold your hands influences the way you learn and remember information.

That is, people’s ability to learn and remember detailed, or comparison information, depends on what they do with their hands while they are learning.

Notre Dame psychologist Dr. James Brockmole and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Christopher Davoli discovered that when people hold objects they learn about process details. However, when they keep their hands away from the objects, people are better able to notice similarities and consistencies about the objects.

Study participants were asked to analyze a set of complex geometric patterns in a series of images. Half the subjects did so while holding their hands alongside the images, while the other half held their hands in their laps.

Results showed that it was harder for people to recognize the commonalities among identical but differently colored patterns if they held them in their hands, suggesting that information near the hands is processed at a deeper level of detail.

Conversely, this orientation to detail hampers people’s ability to consider the similarities that exist among slightly different objects.

Researchers believe the different capabilities have evolutionary roots.

“Near the body, and especially near the hands, attention to detail is crucial because subtle differences among objects can differentiate the harmful from the benign,” Brockmole said.

“We needed to recognize which berries were poisonous and which were not; what snakes will bite and which will not. On the other hand, people can think about objects that are farther away from the body in more categorical terms since details are less important.”

Experts believe this knowledge can be used to impact education — especially with the transition from books or even computer screens toward use of iPads.

Experts say future education approaches, especially the depiction of visual concepts on various forms of media, will need to consider the new research findings.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Memory and Cognition.

Source: University of Notre Dame

Use Your Hands If You Want To Remember Details

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Use Your Hands If You Want To Remember Details. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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