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February 3, 2004

Posted by Teresa at 08:14 PM *

This is kind of dumb, but fun. While sitting in your chair, lift your right foot slightly off the ground and move it in clockwise circles. Now draw the numeral “6” in the air with your right hand. Your foot will involuntarily reverse direction. (via

Comments on Trick:
#1 ::: Bill Simmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 08:27 PM:

The effect of your hand controlling your foot's motion may seem mysterious, but the real mystery is: why is this fun? I don't know, but look at me doing it.

#2 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:03 PM:

Doesn't work on me.

#3 ::: Matt ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:04 PM:

There's nothing special about the number 6 though is there...apart from the fact that it's usually drawn in a counter-clockwise motion.

I think the effect works better if you just repeatedly draw counter-clockwise circles in the air, it's like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.

#4 ::: Murph ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:05 PM:

I can't even do it when I scribe the number VI in the air. And just the fact that I tried is kind of sad.


#5 ::: Dr. Mysterian ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:08 PM:

My foot goes the wrong direction even when I try the numeral five.

#6 ::: gthistle ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:26 PM:

My foot reverses direction just as I concentrate on starting a "6" and *not* reversing direction; it doesn't matter whether my hand starts to move. Stupid neural overrides.

Does handedness factor in usefully anywhere?

#7 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:29 PM:

Doesn't work for me either.

#8 ::: Clinton Ecker ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:30 PM:

My foot didn't change direction, am I doing something wrong?

#9 ::: Nancy Hanger ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:38 PM:

Maybe it didn't work on me because I'm a "true" (confirmed by neurology) ambidextrous?

#10 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 09:51 PM:

If you want to really confuse your feet, try 8.

#11 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:11 AM:

This seems like a nefarious but effective way to get lots of people to raise their feet so that one can vacuum.

#12 ::: Keith Tyler ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:25 AM:

just mentally getting the muscles prepared to draw the 6 made my foot reverse. i hadn't actually moved my finger yet.

#13 ::: Hignaki ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:38 AM:

numeral 8 messes up both my hand and my foot.

#14 ::: Superkuh ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:57 AM:

I find it only works if I attempt to draw the 6 in a clockwise manner (from the inside out).

#15 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 01:21 AM:

Further experimentation has shown that I have no difficulty doing this with my right hand and foot, but a great deal of difficulty doing it with the left hand/foot, though I can, with effort.

As additional data, I can pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time, or vice versa.

I am right-handed, but I think it's mostly habitual; I do some things ambidextrously.

#16 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 01:32 AM:

Doesn't work on me either. I think my wiring must be weird.


#17 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 01:33 AM:

whoops! Yes it does -- I was inadvertantly drawing the six with my left hand.



#18 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 01:42 AM:

Stuck on a long conference call in the office today, eh, T?

#19 ::: Mark Lakata ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 01:56 AM:

I'm right handed. I totally spaz when trying to use my right hand/right foot, but I can do it with my left hand/left foot.

Try pointing at your foot going around in circles, then reverse the direction of your hand motion.

#20 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 02:51 AM:

I did it with my left foot and right hand but not with my right foot and right hand. (I am right handed for those who are trying to determine if this is related to handedness.)

#21 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 02:53 AM:

Superkuh: that's weird - I find exactly the opposite (but if I start with my foot going anti-clockwise and draw the 6 inside out it works... Oh God, I'm so sad)

#22 ::: ketsugi ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 03:00 AM:

Doesn't work for me. Oh well.

#23 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 06:27 AM:

You're all out. Therea didn't say Simon Sez.

#25 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 08:25 AM:

Y'know, there's something very suspicious about trying to get a lot of people in different places to make the same weird gesture all at once.

I'm not doing it. So don't look at me when the Gate opens, is all I'm sayin'.

#26 ::: Karin ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 09:10 AM:

Dan, can I borrow your reply for the coworker who sent me this thing?

#27 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 09:26 AM:

If nothing else, it's makes my cow-orkers wonder why I'm sitting in my chair at work and doing the hokey pokey.

#28 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 09:31 AM:

Karin, feel free.

#29 ::: KindlyRat ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 09:42 AM:

Doesn't work for me either but sure was fun! ( I've got to get a life! )

#30 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 10:30 AM:

I couldn't do it either with RH/RF, but RH/LF worked just fine. I'm right-handed with a crossed dominance to my left eye.

#31 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 10:55 AM:

To inject a bit of science, from the massage/neuroanatomy side of things:

looks like the question of moving hand and foot simultaneously is for most people mediated at the fifth cervical vertebral ganglion or above. That's the one that controls motor/sensory reactions below the middle ribs. So if one is trying to move foot and hand in opposite directions, there's a tendency to conflate the signals. The reason I'm putting it at C5 is because I've been working with someone who had a C5 separation and is paraplegic and almost quadriplegic.

End anatomy geek talk.

#32 ::: aha ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:03 PM:

Isn't this how the White House press releases work?

#33 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:15 PM:

A) Good thing my co-workers are mostly at lunch.

B) I think you've messed up my hand-eye-foot coordination for the rest of the day. Now I'm drawin' funny.

#34 ::: Billy ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:18 PM:

the thing described above happens to me!! However, if you work it out digitally(broken into little bits), and then try it you can over come it.. at least for me. (the same thing with rubbing tummy/tapping head)

Just do one, and then do the other, when you start to screw up, start going little bit at a time.... repeat process until you get it to go correctly for a bit, and then after a bit you should be able to do it without stopping.

Same applies the tap/rub thing.

#35 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:40 PM:

I can't beat this one either. But you know the "crazy" gesture, where you rotate your index fingers around the ears on their respective sides?

Gluh. I can't rewrite that now.

Anyway, can you do that with reverse-direction fingers? That is, so the right finger is moving forward at the top of the circle, and the left is moving back (or vice versa)? IOW, both are moving clockwise, or both counterclockwise, from the POV of someone looking at you from either side.

I can. Hey, don't laugh, it's my only real claim to physical prowess.

Well, OK, you can laugh a little bit...

#36 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:44 PM:

*howls of laughter* I'm possessed! Possessed! *gleefully watches her feet* This is a good game! Do you have any more? *laugh*!

#37 ::: aha ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:59 PM:

Here's another trick to fool the brain:

Ask a friend to close their eyes and cross their fingers on one hand. Slowly run a pencil up and down between the crossed tips of their fingers and ask them what they feel. Because their fingers are crossed, they feel the pencil on the outside of each finger, and think there are two pencils rather than one.

#38 ::: Daniel Spector ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 01:07 PM:

...and here I have been wondering what you have been doing all these years....

#39 ::: Melanie Fletcher ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 01:55 PM:

Well, I've twirled my feet, crossed my fingers and twiddled them around my ears, and now my coworkers are convinced that they need to stay far, far away from me. Which is fine -- lets me get that much more work done.

Interesting things, neural connections.

#40 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 03:20 PM:

Here's two more:

(while sitting): close your eyes. Stick your arms straight out in front of you (like a sleepwalker). Raise your right arm up to almost straight overhead, lower your left arm until it almost touches your lap. KEEPING YOUR EYES CLOSED, bring your arms back to the same level. Open your eyes: how close did you get to level? (For lots of people, their prioperception is such that the arms FEEL level but are inches off.)

While standing, fold your arms. Notice which is on top, left or right. Now refold them, with the opposite arm on top. Awkward, eh?

#41 ::: Kim Wells ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 04:00 PM:

Here's a fun one-- open your wallet, then take all the money out. Send it to me at the following address:

Ah. never mind. That one never works.

#42 ::: Priscilla ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 04:09 PM:

Similar to what Liz just said - clasp your hands and see what thumb is on top (Are you right of left-thumbed?). Try clasping them the "wrong" way - it will feel horrible.
This is a genetic trait that has nothing to do with handedness.....but an interesting piece of junk DNA?

#43 ::: aha ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 07:45 PM:

Speaking of chirality and junk DNA, here’s the best trick of all:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides, and close your eyes. Repeat the magic words “Saddam Osama WMD” several times. You will soon find it impossible to move to the left.

#44 ::: Ben Schmidt ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 09:46 PM:

It did not work on me, but I have a theory why: I do sport fencing as a hobby. As a result, I've trained the muscles in my feet and my hands to operate rather independently. I suspect anyone who has trained for any sort of martial art or sport which require the use of both hands and feet would be similarly unaffected. (After all, if doing a circle parry threw off how I was moving my foot during fencing, I would be in trouble).
Of course, this is entirely pulled from thin air, so I could quite easily be completely wrong...

#45 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 10:09 PM:

aha, some people have nothing BUT junk DNA...even if it does get them into Yale.

#46 ::: sam ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 10:12 PM:

aha, thank you for making me laugh 'til I cry!

#47 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 11:31 PM:

I slowed down a bit on Teresa's trick, but didn't have trouble doing it with either side. Then again, I spent my youth doing ballet and tap. I used to be able to write the alphabet in the air with both feet at once, even switching from both feet writing forwards, to mirror images, to writing backwards. Unfortunately, that skill seems to have vanished along with my ankle muscles. (Ow.)

#48 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 02:48 AM:

My doctor had me do a bunch of those on a whim last time I saw him (was he trying to see how my condition affected my motor skills, or was it just fun? Probably both), and I pretty much ran the table.

I've always been able to multitask my movements fairly well (although, truth be told, it might be taking a larger chunk of my available CPU cycles these days -- if he had asked me to count backwards from 100 by sevens at the same time, I might have sprained something).

#49 ::: Tobias ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 05:51 AM:

Weird. Right after my third attempt to master this puzzling game of coordination, Max von Sydow showed up, sprinkling holy water on my spinning head. Now I think I may have to throw up.

I must be doing something wrong. Perhaps I need some more exorcise.

#50 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 12:37 PM:

While I couldn't do Teresa's (which I knew having encountered this little trick before) I had no trouble at all changing my crossed arms or with the thumb thing. My massage therapist/chirpractor used to want desperately to see my wiring diagram...


#51 ::: Menolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 01:01 PM:

I can do the arm-level one pretty well, perhaps thanks to 3+ years of (Iyengar) yoga. Spiraling fingers also no problem -- I think I trained myself for seperate hand movements back when I decided to learn to pat my head while rubbing my stomach.

I wonder if the hand/foot one is different for stickshift drivers versus automatic drivers...

#52 ::: Rachael HD ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 08:59 PM:

I couldn't do it, wah, I love stuff like this. Ben thank you for the gracefull out, it's all that martial arts training, yeah.

Dan, very funny!

You all know about the standing in the door one? Where you press your arms out for 30 seconds and when you step out of the doorway your arms involuntarily rise?

#53 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 09:02 PM:

I could do all of these, but only after a few repetitions.

After the foot rotation / hand figure 6 thing, I tried placing my right forefinger on my nose, and my left forefinger on one ear, then swapping fingers, noses and ears rapidly, criss-crossing. I did not hit myself in the eye. Go me.

Oh, and I figured out the arms-level-eyes-closed one. If I stretch my arms out a little bit further once I think they're level, I can usually get it right.

#54 ::: Roy ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 06:16 PM:

I had a hard time getting my foot to go clockwise.It felt good to let it go sounter when I started the 6.

#55 ::: Peter Kunz ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2004, 03:26 AM:

Try this:
Watch Bush on tv, say god bless you and you will get a migrane.

#56 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2004, 11:31 AM:


#57 ::: Xopher spots comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2004, 03:40 PM:

"Benedict," above. Irrelevant comment, link to irrelevant website. Old thread.

#58 ::: Andy Perrin spots comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2004, 11:38 PM:

Carl Ross.

My first comment spam!

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