The Lego® Serious Play® method relies on the hand-brain connection to enable people to express their taken-for-granted beliefs and can't-put-into-words ideas. It works because your hands and brain are closely and powerfully connected, and your hands can express what your mouth cannot. In his book The Hand, Frank Wilson, a neurologist, describes what science tells us about this connection. Read it if you want to explore the details, but here are a few key points that explain why using your hands in LSP® enriches human interactions.
There’s a strong neural connection between human hands and humans brains, and it’s become stronger with evolution. Drawing on findings from studies of evolving humans, Wilson outlines how brain size was correlated with the development of the opposable thumb—once humans had an opposable thumb, and could more easily manipulate objects, the size of the human brain grew and grew, outstripping the size of other primate brains. Today, about half of the human brain has connections to the hands.
Those hand-brain connections were and are used for the complex process of developing thought and language, often unconsciously, with the manipulation of objects being a key factor. Instead of relying on pre-programmed instincts, humans can reason—thought and language are a “secondary heuristic,” as Wilson and others put it, to help humans survive situations where more than instinct is required. Wilson quotes one source, Harlan Lane: "The brain has the capacity for language, and if you can put it out through your mouth you can put it out through your hand.”
Wilson discusses what the hand-brain connection might mean for education, to argue that we need a broader notion of what intelligence includes—that it should not be, in his words, cephalocentric (cephalos, meaning “head”). The hand is indispensable for learning, and its capacity for creativity and expression, if encouraged, will continue to provide the “secondary heuristic” that humans need to survive.
Manipulating Lego® bricks, then, lets the brain talk to others in a new, creative way, enriching human interactions. Plus, um, it IS fun.