How we use our bodies impacts our thinking, learning, decision-making and other cognitive functions. The entire field of embodied cognition is devoted to understanding how body behaviors and mental performance interact. For example, literally “stepping back”, folding your arms or walking around have all been shown to improve problem solving outcomes.
Findings in embodied cognition are especially relevant for designers because they tell you what people should do to produce specific mental states. So I am always on the look out for new scientific finding in embodied cognition. Take for example the recent work at the University of Cologne on hand washing.
Not only did they find that it tends to make you more optimistic after a failure, but they found that it leads to poorer performance in the same context.
This is a strange result as we normally associate optimism with higher levels of performance. Here is the explanation:
“… it can be concluded from the results that while physical cleansing after failure may eliminate negative feelings, it reduces the motivation to try harder in a new test situation to restore one’s own perception of competence. Hence, physical cleansing seems to result in being in a better position to deal with failure.”
Clearly more research is needed but it does bring to mind the old metaphor or saying: I am washing my hands of this situation.