Swinging into thought: Directed movement guides insight in problem solving

Laura E. Thomas, Alejandro Lleras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Can directed actions unconsciously influence higher order cognitive processing? We investigated how movement interventions affected participants' ability to solve a classic insight problem. The 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 (swing group) or in a manner inconsistent with the solution (stretch group). Although most of the participants were unaware of the relationship between their arm movement exercises and the problem-solving task, the participants who moved their arms in a manner that suggested the problem's solution were more likely to solve the problem than were those who moved their arms in other ways. Consistent with embodied theories of cognition, these findings show that actions influence thought and, furthermore, that we can implicitly guide people toward insight by directing their actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-723
Number of pages5
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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