How Researchers Found Fidgeting at Your Desk Promotes Creative Thinking

Sometimes you might find yourself stuck on a work project and just need a boost of creative juice to get the ball rolling again. And now researchers at New York University have found that fiddling with a gadget on your desk could do just that.

It has been proven that certain hand movements not only improve focus but promote creative thinking. So grab your own fidget widget and get inspired as you keep reading.

A Creative Solution to Regain Your Focus

NYU researchers at the School of Engineering led by doctoral student Michael Karlesky, recently took 40 workers and gave them various fidget widgets from a Slinky, pen, rings, magnets, blu tack, to a set of smooth stones, in order to see how interacting with these devices promotes creativity, eases anxiety, and helps people focus while on the job.

The results were quite interesting. By simply manipulating everyday objects, participants not only saw a decrease in their overall stress levels but were more apt to generate creative ideas and stay focused.

This recent NYU study is at the forefront of an emerging field called “embodied cognition” which analyzes how cognitive function is affected by movement and your immediate environment.

Other studies performed by Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles found that physical interaction while learning improved memory retention and information recall. Out of 327 students studied, those that took longhand notes during a lecture versus those who used a computer were more likely to retain the information and provide better answers to conceptual questions.

Putting the Findings into Use

Looking for some ideas to put this into practice? Your fidget widget can be anything from a few smooth stones to a high-end toy like the Executive Sandbox by Brookstone. Not only can your fidget widget improve your thinking and creative reasoning, it can also be a way to spark conversations at work helping you build rapport with coworkers.

The opportunity to experiment with these findings is endless. And now Karlesky’s team at NYU is encouraging people to engage with his study by bringing their own devices to work. Through a social media campaign that he hopes to utilize in his research, Karlesky has asked people around the world to post photos and videos of their fidget widget along with a description of its benefits at

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