Researchers at Montclaire State University believe that clenching the fist can help the memory. They found that the test group who clenched their right fist while memorizing a list of words and proceeded to clench their left fist while recalling the words did better than all the other groups.
This is my commentary:
This is certainly an interesting experiment because people are able to quickly test it themselves. Personally I know how well I remember because I work and compete as a memory man. I tested clenching my fist, but I sadly I did not experience a positive effect. In the experiments at Montclaire the participants were to clench their fists as hard as possible. If this experiment is correct, I still find it difficult to put it into practical use. People wish to remember names, languages, passwords, appointments and so on. Clenching the fist to remember someone’s name seems strange. Clenching the fist as hard as possible while studying is possible – but exhausting. In the World Memory Championship (WMC) no one uses this technique, not even the Chinese. The WMC gives a hint about what technique is most efficient. There is no one who uses rote learning (also called thoughtless repetition). Everybody uses memory techniques. The techniques are surprisingly relaxing and much more comfortable than clenching fists. I myself have trained three random people to remember a thousand decimals of pi (as shown on TV2 I 2006). They used ten relaxing hours to memorize, and they all remembered 1000 decimals.
The way I understand the study, it seems as though those who clenched their fists remembered about 10 out of 36 words. One word was shown at a time, with five second intervals (10 out of 36 words make up for 28 percent). I have held about 400 memory courses and when I last surveyed the effect, 66 percent remembered all 60 words that were read to them. Only 2.1 percent remembered less than 60 percent of the words. Read more about the effect here
I interpret the experiment at Montclaire as those who did not clench their fists remembered between 1 and 1,5 words less than those who did clench their fists. My question: is clenching your fist as hard as possible worth it? Especially when it’s necessary to clench again during reciting?
It’s too bad that only 50 people were a part of the study and that the groups were of about 10 people each.
However, would memory techniques in combination with clenching have an effect? I doubt it, even though I have not done any thorough studies of this. Researchers will probably always look for methods to remember things easier. I am of the opinion that memory techniques is the answer. Some of them are thousands of years old. Another solution is to use aids such as mobile phones. No one in the world remembers everything, even us who compete in WMC. It’s only in the last generations of human existence that there have been so many passwords, account numbers, names, and books to remember. For this purpose to use a few aids is fine (appointment books, alarms etc) as long as we don’t let ourselves become addicted.