Study Finds Hand Clenching Helps With Memory Recall

Posted on April 29, 2013

Researchers from Montclair State University say hand clenching can help with memory recall. The study was funded by a Department of Defense (DOD) grant and published here in PLoS One.

Dr. Ruth E. Propper, associate professor of psychology at Montclair State University, led the study that tested five groups of participants who squeezed - or did not squeeze - rubber balls immediately before studying a list of words and immediately before recalling the words.

Dr. Propper said in a statement, "We tested the subjects' recall of low frequency words in the English language such as aardvark and twilight. We report that 90 seconds of right hand clenching prior to studying information, followed by 90 seconds of left hand clenching prior to recall results in superior memory for information. The converse - left hand clenching followed by right hand clenching - impairs memory."

The researchers say this kind of hand clenching activates the left and right hemispheres of the brain. They say right hand clenching activates the left hemisphere, which is involved in encoding information into memory and left hand clenching can facilitate the retrieval of information from the right hemisphere.

Dr. Propper says the recall trick could help if you lose your car keys. She says, "It could be helpful, right before putting down the car keys, for example, if you clench your right hand. Right before trying to recall where you’d left them, you’d clench your left hand."