Squeezing a Ball: A New Tool for a Struggling Student
July 15, 2016

Is your struggling student having issues focusing or solving problems? Are they having issues thinking outside of the box creatively or being flexible? According to a recent article by PsychCentral, the answer may be between squeezing a hard ball versus a soft ball with your left hand. Researchers were astounded by the results of the simple task of squeezing a ball with your left hand as hard as you can for around a minute. Researchers believe this may have something to do with the difference between divergent thinking and convergent thinking.

Findings from the Study

Convergent thinking is useful for processing information, connecting information, gaining knowledge, and solving problems. Convergent thinking is primarily used in regards to solving problems in the real world. It has to do with focus. Divergent thinking is more about “brainstorming” and thinking outside the box. For a struggling student, they can have issues with divergent and/or convergent thinking, but this study may make things a little easier on these kids.

Participants in the study that squeezed a ball with their left hand solved around 50 percent more problems than those who used their right hand. The right hand group even solved less than the control group which did no squeezing at all. Clearly squeezing a ball with the left hand is doing something that’s improving cognitive functioning, but why?

How Does It Work?

There are many ideas of why this technique works. Many have to do with the activation or deactivation of certain parts and areas of the brain. One of the most interesting ideas, is that our bodily actions influence our thinking. This is called embodied cognition and it would explain why there’s a difference between the hardness of the balls.

PsychCentral provided examples from some studies showing this theory. For example, we tend to perceive someone as being more rigid and uptight if we’re touching a dense, inflexible, wooden block. Yet if we’re touching something softer–like a blanket–we perceive them as being warm and more relaxed. According to this theory, squeezing a hard ball produces more focused, structured thinking; while squeezing a soft ball produces more flexible, malleable thinking.

This information could be extremely helpful to a struggling student. A ball is portable and easy to take around, if your struggling student is having issues in these areas, maybe it’s time to give this a shot.

Have a struggling student? ViewPoint Center might be able to help.

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