Playing with a geometric puzzle or stress ball at your desk can seem like idle diversion. It may also spark clearer or more creative thinking.
Certain kinds of hand movements have an impact on cognitive functioning, improving focus or sparking fresh thinking or faster learning, according to several recent studies. Researchers at New York University’s Polytechnic School of Engineering are exploring how fiddling with desk gadgets might yield some of those benefits on the job.
The research holds clues to how people who feel restless or confined by computer work might find the physical stimulation and stress release they need in behavior that they would have been scolded for in elementary school—fidgeting.
Researchers at NYU are studying how 40 workers use various gadgets, from infant chew toys to Slinkys, gobs of adhesive putty and ballpoint pens, to help focus, ease anxiety and jump-start creative thinking, says Michael Karlesky, a doctoral student at NYU’s engineering school. He is conducting the study with his adviser, Katherine Isbister, research director of NYU’s Game Innovation Lab and author of two books on computer game design and research.
Fidget Widgets in the Wall Street Journal
March 3, 2015