Body thinking

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Viv has spotted a fascinating article from the New Scientist: Your clever body: Thinking from head to toe (paywalled). Here’s a snippet from the opening:

We tend to view the mind as an aloof disembodied entity but it is becoming increasingly clear that the whole body is involved in the thinking process. Without input from your body your mind would be unable to generate a sense of self or process emotions properly. Your body even plays a role in thinking about language and mathematics. And physiological sensations, such as those from your heart and bladder, influence such diverse personal attributes as the strength of your tendency to conform, your willpower and whether you are swayed by your intuitions or governed by rational thought.

It lists lots of experiments that demonstrate how powerfully our thinking is linked to feelings and challenges the conventional idea that our body is there to carry out the preconceived notions of our brains.

It looks at a series of curious experiments, including one that suggests the physical act of smiling is more a cause of our feeling happy than the other way round.

It’s further evidence that having meetings where people mostly sit still and listen to presentations is a shocking use of our potential; movement can significantly change the way we think. So I’m with Viv when she says

So in designing meetings, we should be thinking about how to accommodate our bodies, as well as our brains; how to intersperse periods of thinking and struggling with ideas and solutions, with movement and activities.

People still occasionally deride those who concern themselves with “touch feely emotions” as if this a low status activity to be sneered at. I’m amused at the idea of firing back a sentence about “embodied cognition” which feels like a suitable counter-play of status.

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