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Laura Thomas, Alejandro Lleras; Moving thought: Directed movement guides insight in problem solving. Journal of Vision 2008;8(6):1053. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/8.6.1053.
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Recent theories of embodied cognition suggest that cognitive processes are rooted in the body's interactions with the physical world. They propose that the mind uses the body to accomplish cognitive goals, both through direct action and by tapping into perceptual and motor resources to represent and manipulate information. In this study, we go beyond these claims, showing that cognitive processes can actually arise from and be influenced by the manner in which our bodies interact with our immediate environment. We investigated how movement interventions affected participants' ability to solve a classic insight problem. Participants attempted to solve Maier's two-string problem while occasionally taking ‘exercise breaks’ during which they moved their arms either in a manner related to the problem's solution (swinging arms group) or in a manner inconsistent with the solution (stretching arms group). Although many participants were unaware of the relationship between their arm movement ‘exercises’ and the problem-solving task, participants who moved their arms in a manner that suggested the problem's solution were 56% more likely to solve the problem than those in the inconsistent movement group. These results are consistent with our recent findings (Thomas & Lleras, 2007) that directed eye movements can also induce insight in another complex problem, Duncker's radiation problem. Together these series of findings strongly suggest that movement interventions influence cognition; in other words, our movements can guide our thoughts.
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