Have you ever wondered why many people have a tendency to put their hands on their face when they’re thinking? I’ve noticed that I do that; if I get stuck on a test question or on a move in a game, or even if I’m trying to decide what to write, I usually put an elbow or two on the table or desk and rest my forehead or chin or cheek on it. I can’t explain why I do it, but since a lot of people do, there must be a reason.

The most logical hypothesis would seem to be that for some reason, contact between the hand and the face is actually beneficial to cognitive functioning. Fortunately, that is pretty easy to test, and I’m obsessively curious enough to do it. I actually intend to test it twice; once to see if it helps while trying to learn something, and once to see if it helps while trying to remember something. I plan to spend 20 days on each of these experiments. Both experiments will consist of attempting to memorize a string of 20 random digits in under 60 seconds, and then writing them down from memory after a 60 second break, because the experiment would be pointless if I made it too easy.

For the first 20 days, starting on June 8 and going until June 27, (unless I skip a day or two somewhere in there) I will do this three times a day. Once, I will memorize the numbers while sitting at a desk with my hands away from my face. Once, I will memorize the numbers while sitting at the desk with my hands on my face. Once, I will memorize the numbers while pacing around my room in circles, because it’s my personal opinion that walking around is the best way to think. In order to reduce the number of variables, I won’t do these tests in the same order each day.

For the second 20 days, I will only do the test twice a day. I will memorize the numbers according to whichever method I determined works best, and the variable in the experiment will be whether or not I have my non-writing hand on my face while I’m remembering the numbers. For both of the tests, I’ll be sitting at the desk to write, because it’s hard to write while pacing in circles.

My hypothesis is that I will find that I retain information best if I was pacing in circles while learning it, and that I can remember information best if I have my hands on my face while I’m trying to remember it. I don’t know why that would be the case, but in order to be completely scientific, I need to figure out if it’s true before speculating about why.

The flaw with this experiment, of course, is that my only subject is me, and I’m not representative of the general population. (In fact, I’m quite a weirdo, which is demonstrated by the fact that I felt a need to do this experiment in the first place) Another flaw is that learning stuff isn’t really the same as memorizing stuff. Also, I’m not sure that I’m successfully eliminating all external variables with my methodology. I guess that if I ever come up with better way to do this experiment, I can redo it later. And when I do, I want to add a part so that I can demonstrate my firmly held conviction that information is best retained when the learning process involves eating M&Ms.

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