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Handy ways to learn

By on September 3, 2014

We all talk with our hands. Admittedly some people use their hands more than others. For example Italians tend to gesticulate quite wildly while talking, while the British are more reserved with their gestures.

We use gestures to communicate information. These communications may be pretty obvious, as in pointing to something, “It’s over there!” Other gestures may be more subtle, where we are indicating something about the relative location, direction, movement, texture, or some other quality of an object, or marking out an event in time, or describing an emotion such as open palm invitations, closed fist angers and so on.

Gestures are also associated with a mental construct called the ‘spatial sketchpad’. This is a close cousin to the internal movie screen we have discussed in other blogs. The internal movie screen is used to watch internal movies, such as memories or how we hope or fear future events may go. In contrast, the spatial sketchpad allows us to manipulate objects in space and time. We might for example gesture at the table, or an imaginary surface, in front of us to discuss a play by our favorite sports team, or to describe who sat where at a dinner party.

It turns out that using gestures with this sketchpad aids learning, as described in the article below by Gwen Dewar. The theory that neuroscientists have for this effect is that using gestures to solidify locations, relationships and other information reduces the cognitive load on working memory.

In any case, whatever the reason, using gestures aids learning. This rule applies whether the learner is gesturing, or the learner is watching a teacher gesture.

The takeaway from this is that when you are working with a hypnosis client, installing a change, you should use your hands to gesture in a way appropriate for the change. For example you might push a problem into their past, or you might  ‘reduce’ a negative feeling by bringing one hand down while ‘increasing’ a resource by raising the other hand up.

You should also encourage your client to make similar gestures. These even act as gestural anchors and can be used to reduce negative states and increase positive states the next time you see the client. These gestural anchors can also be installed so that the client will naturally trigger a resource state by making gestures they habitually make.

(image courtesy of StockImages via

Most people talk with their hands. In fact, gestures seem to arise unconsciously when we speak. Kids who are blind from birth use gestures when they talk, even when speaking to other sightless people.

Our ability to learn is constrained by the limits of working memory (Brunken et al 2002). Working memory is also linked with intelligence. So anything that reduces the “cognitive load” on your working memory may help you think and learn more efficiently. Surprisingly, gestures might do that for us.

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