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Barack Obama fidgeting with a Petoskey stone while on a phone call (2012)
Shaking a pen while thinking is a common way of fidgeting.

Fidgeting is the act of moving about restlessly in a way that is not (socially recognized as) essential to ongoing tasks or events.[1][2] Fidgeting may involve playing with one's fingers,[3] hair, or personal objects (e.g. glasses, pens or items of clothing). In this sense, it may be considered twiddling or fiddling. Fidgeting is commonly used as a label for unexplained or subconscious activities and postural movements that people perform while seated or standing idle.

A common act of fidgeting is to bounce one's leg repeatedly. Rings are another common focus of fidgeting; variations include ring spinning, twirling or rolling along a table. Classrooms are sites of fidgeting, and traditionally teachers and students have viewed fidgeting as a sign of diminished attention.[4][5] Toys have been invented to help with fidgeting. These fidget toys include fidget spinners.

Causes and effects[edit]

Fidgeting may be a result of nervousness, frustration, agitation, boredom, ADHD,[6] excitement, or a combination of these.[7][better source needed]

When interested in a task, a seated person will suppress their fidgeting,[8] a process described as Non-Instrumental Movement Inhibition (NIMI). Some education researchers consider fidgeting, along with noise-making, as clear signs of inattention or low lecture quality,[9] although educators point out that active engagement can take place without constantly directing attention to the instructor (i.e. engagement and attention are related but not equivalent[8]). Fidgeting is often a subconscious act and is increased during spontaneous mind-wandering.[10][11] Some researchers have proposed that fidgeting is not only an indicator of diminishing attention, but is also a subconscious attempt to increase arousal in order to improve attention.[12] While inattention is strongly associated with poor learning and poor information recall, research by Dr. Karen Pine and colleagues found that children that are allowed to fidget with their hands performed better in memory and learning tests.[13] A 2014 study also found that children with ADHD performed better on some cognitive tasks when they are engaged in "more intense [spontaneous] physical activity", although no such correlation was seen in children without ADHD.[14]

Fidgeting is considered a nervous habit, though it does have some underlying benefits. People who fidget regularly tend to weigh less than people who do not fidget because they burn more calories than those who remain still. The energy expenditure associated with fidgeting is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).[15] It has been reported that while individuals vary in how much they fidget, the act of fidgeting burns on average about 350 extra calories per day, which could add up to about 10 to 30 pounds (4–13 kg) a year.[16]

Fidgeting may be a result of genetics[17][18] and some are born with a propensity to be fidgety.[15] Fidgeting can also be a medical sign, as seen in hyperthyroidism.[19] Hyperthyroid patients may be restless, become agitated easily, display fine tremors, and have trouble concentrating.[19]

Fidget toys[edit]

There are several devices that aim to aid fidgeting, including fidget cubes, fidget spinners, fidget sticks (kururin),[20] and fidget pens. These "fidget toys" are typically intended to help students with autism or ADHD focus better,[21][22] and come with a variety of buttons and switches that can be played with by the user.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mehrabian, Albert; Friedman, Shan L (1986-06-01). "An analysis of fidgeting and associated individual differences". Journal of Personality. 54 (2): 406–429. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.1986.tb00402.x. ISSN 1467-6494.
  2. ^ "Bad Habits and Fidgeting At School". Archived from the original on 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
  3. ^ "Finger Tapping example animation".
  4. ^ Risko, Evan F.; Anderson, Nicola; Sarwal, Amara; Engelhardt, Megan; Kingstone, Alan (2012-03-01). "Everyday Attention: Variation in Mind Wandering and Memory in a Lecture". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 26 (2): 234–242. doi:10.1002/acp.1814. ISSN 1099-0720.
  5. ^ Ribot, Théodule (1890). The psychology of attention. Chicago, IL: Open Court. ISBN 9780548114025. OCLC 707693480.
  6. ^ Sachdev, Perminder; Kruk, Jane (1996). "Restlessness: The Anatomy of a Neuropsychiatric Symptom". Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 30 (1): 38–53. doi:10.3109/00048679609076071. ISSN 0004-8674. PMID 8724326. S2CID 28417779.
  7. ^ Galton, Francis (1885-06-25). "The Measure of Fidget". Nature. 32 (817): 174–175. Bibcode:1885Natur..32..174G. doi:10.1038/032174b0.
  8. ^ a b Witchel, Harry J.; Santos, Carlos P.; Ackah, James K.; Westling, Carina E. I.; Chockalingam, Nachiappan (2016). "Non-Instrumental Movement Inhibition (NIMI) Differentially Suppresses Head and Thigh Movements during Screenic Engagement: Dependence on Interaction". Frontiers in Psychology. 7: 157. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00157. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 4762992. PMID 26941666.
  9. ^ Gligorić, N.; Uzelac, A.; Krco, S. (March 2012). "Smart Classroom: Real-time feedback on lecture quality". 2012 IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications Workshops. pp. 391–394. doi:10.1109/percomw.2012.6197517. ISBN 978-1-4673-0907-3. S2CID 17113618.
  10. ^ Carriere, Jonathan S. A.; Seli, Paul; Smilek, Daniel (2013). "Wandering in both mind and body: Individual differences in mind wandering and inattention predict fidgeting". Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology. 67 (1): 19–31. doi:10.1037/a0031438. PMID 23458548.
  11. ^ Seli, Paul; Carriere, Jonathan S. A.; Thomson, David R.; Cheyne, James Allan; Martens, Kaylena A. Ehgoetz; Smilek, Daniel (2014). "Restless mind, restless body". Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. 40 (3): 660–668. doi:10.1037/a0035260. PMID 24364721.
  12. ^ Farley, James; Risko, Evan; Kingstone, Alan (2013). "Everyday attention and lecture retention: the effects of time, fidgeting, and mind wandering". Frontiers in Psychology. 4: 619. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00619. ISSN 1664-1078. PMC 3776418. PMID 24065933.
  13. ^ "UK | Education | Fidgeting children 'learn more'". BBC News. 2005-04-12. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
  14. ^ Hartanto, T. A.; Krafft, C. E.; Iosif, A. M.; Schweitzer, J. B. (2016-07-03). "A trial-by-trial analysis reveals more intense physical activity is associated with better cognitive control performance in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder". Child Neuropsychology. 22 (5): 618–626. doi:10.1080/09297049.2015.1044511. ISSN 0929-7049. PMC 4675699. PMID 26059476.
  15. ^ a b Levine, James A. (2004-05-01). "Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): environment and biology". American Journal of Physiology. Endocrinology and Metabolism. 286 (5): E675–E685. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00562.2003. ISSN 0193-1849. PMID 15102614.
  16. ^ Stein, Rob (2005-01-28). "Fidgeting Helps Separate the Lean From the Obese, Study Finds". Retrieved 2009-10-02.
  17. ^ Johannsen, Darcy L; Ravussin, Eric (2008). "Spontaneous physical activity: relationship between fidgeting and body weight control". Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity. 15 (5): 409–415. doi:10.1097/med.0b013e32830b10bb. PMID 18769211. S2CID 5605293.
  18. ^ Joosen, Annemiek (2005). "Genetic analysis of physical activity in twins". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 82 (6): 1253–1259. doi:10.1093/ajcn/82.6.1253. PMID 16332658.
  19. ^ a b Harris, Philip E.; Bouloux, Pierre-Marc G. (2014). Endocrinology in Clinical Practice (2nd ed.). CRC Press. p. 259. ISBN 9781841849522.
  20. ^ Jonathan Jamieson (2017-01-24). "Kururin". Archived from the original on 2018-08-20. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  21. ^ Hallowell, Edward (2016). "Fidgeting — It's Not Just for Kids". ADDitude Magazine.
  22. ^ Marner, Kay (2011). "What Makes a Good Fidget?". ADDitude Magazine.
  23. ^ Dormehl, Luke (8 March 2017). "Are fidget toys legitimately good for your brain, or pseudoscientific snake oil?". Digital Trends.