Not only the brain, but other body parts also play a significant role in problem solving, says a new study.
"Being able to use your body in problem solving alters the way you solve the problems," said Martha Alibali, psychology professor at University of Wisconsin.
"Body movements are one of the resources we bring to cognitive processes," she added.
To confirm their findings, researchers recruited 86 American undergraduates, half of whom were prevented from moving their hands and the others were prevented from moving their feet.
The experimenter then asked participants about gears in relation to each other from behind an opaque screen.
The participants solved the problems aloud and were videotaped.
The tapes were analyzed for the number of hand gestures the participants used (hand rotations or "ticking" movements, indicating counting), verbal explanations indicating the subject was visualizing those physical movements or the use of more abstract mathematical rules, without reference to perceptual-motor processes.
The results showed that people who were allowed to gesture usually did so and they also commonly used perceptual-motor strategies in solving the puzzles.
Contrastingly, people whose hands were restrained as well as those who chose not to gesture (even when allowed) used abstract, mathematical strategies much more often.
"As human thinkers, we use visual-spatial metaphors all the time to solve problems and conceptualize things-even in domains that don't seem physical on their face. Adding is 'up,' subtracting is 'down.' A good mood is 'high,' a bad one is 'low.' This is the metaphoric structuring of our conceptual landscape."
The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.