Why We Use Our Hands When We Think

A complementary strategy can be defined as any organizing activity which recruits external elements to reduce cognitive loads. Typical organizing activities include pointing, arranging the position and orientation of nearby objects, writing things down, manipulating counters, rulers or other artifacts that can encode the state of a process or simplify perception. To illustrate the idea of a complementary strategy, a simple experiment was performed in which subjects were asked to determine the dollar value of collections of coins. In the no-hands condition, subjects were not allowed to touch the coin images or to move their hands in any way. In the hands condition, they were allowed to use their hands and fingers however they liked. Significant improvements in time and number of errors were observed when S's used their hands over when they did not. To explain these facts, a brief account of some commonly observed complementary strategies is presented, and an account of their potential benefits to perception, memory and attention.
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