Hold back to gain more

By Shayna Brouker • Published: September 7th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Want to make smarter investments, curb your drinking habits and get better at gambling? Control yourself with a sleight of hand — literally. Researchers at the University of Exeter in England found that stopping your hand from reaching for another beer, for example, can train your brain to control other impulses.

The researchers tested the theory by prompting participants to play a risky game for money on a computer screen. They found that those who pulled their hand back and literally stopped themselves from hitting a key were 10 to 15 percent less likely to make risky bets than people who did not. They tested the concept in two other experiments and found the same results.

Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study shows that physical restraint decreased risk-taking behavior — at least when it came to making choices about money. But they think holding back your hand could help curb dalliances with other temptations, as well. More and more research is demonstrating that the brain processes inhibition and physical movements similarly.

For example, a separate study of Dutch college students found that training them not to hit keys when presented with images of beer on a computer screen reduced their drinking by almost 30 percent.

Gambling goes hand-in-hand with other addictive behaviors. In fact, 40 percent of compulsive gamblers also abuse alcohol. The findings of the University of Exeter study might offer a new form of therapy doctors can use when treating patients who are battling addictions.

So the next time you reach out for just one more beer, or cupcake, or roll of the dice, try literally pulling your hand back. This simple move may just help retrain your brain.