Uta Sassenberg and her colleagues at Germany’s Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Potsdam University researched a link between using hand gestures and intelligence. They found that those among the 11th-graders they observed who used hand gestures while explaining a visual analogy pertaining to chessboard-like patterns, also scored higher on fluid intelligence—“the type of intelligence that is responsible for abilities such as problem-solving, learning, and pattern recognition.”All of the students verbalized the same concepts, but those who gestured, indicated aspects of the concepts not articulated by any of them. Furthermore, MRI scans showed thicker brain tissue in areas “related to both high fluid intelligence and production of gestures.” Those who physically engage the problem are smarter: better at problem solving and understanding the matter.
These findings conjure a number of reflections concerning the significance of performing the related task about which one has learned or is accruing knowledge. One deliberation in particular pertains to my thesis that in order to be spiritually formed, one must do justice; and its corollary: doing justice spiritually forms us. Though the connections are not directly associated, the link between the two can easily be made. Research in related fields shows similar results. Mindfulness, for instance, usually exercised through spiritual practice, is correlated with a simpler lifestyle, environmental conscientiousness and participation in social welfare efforts. That which comes first—the activity the brain response, is not entirely clear. However, the Sassenberg study found that children who were coached to gesture concept-relevant movement, remembered and learned the concept more quickly than those who did not receive gesture coaching.
It is not enough merely to know something; one might acquire knowledge, yet not obtain understanding. It is compulsory to make active, practical, physical that which you believe, or assert as truth. Otherwise, it is merely hot air, or like the one who looks in a mirror and in turning away forgets what she looks like (James 1:23-24).
And, the disconnect is obvious to everyone else: