Can You Think With Your Fingers?

Categories: All About Touch Typing, Typing Science |

Walking, jogging, going up stairs and down again, reaching out to turn a door handle – you’re so used to doing these things that you don’t have to think about them. You don’t sit down to breakfast and consciously say to yourself, “Now I will stretch out my arm horizontally, rotate my wrist 90 degrees, open my fingers wide and then curl them inwards towards my thumb, increase the muscular resistance in my arm and raise it slightly higher, and retract my arm again.” Instead, you just pick up the glass of orange juice. There’s a useful phrase called “muscle memory” that explains why these familiar actions are so familiar: we’ve done them so many times that they’re automatic. The brain is still involved, of course, but on a completely unconscious level.

Part of the reason that athletes and musicians practice every day is so that they get this muscle memory. In a sense, it’s not only the brain that trains the muscles, it’s the muscles that train the brain. Every time you shape your body in a specific way, whether you’re positioning your fingers to make an E-chord on the guitar or swinging a baseball bat, your muscles “report back” to the brain in a process called proprioception. The information that the muscles transmit to the brain help the brain learn exactly what signals to send to put the muscles in that position the next time. At first, you’re concentrating on what you’re getting your muscles to do, but as time goes on you don’t have to think about it. That lets you move faster and more accurately, and the movement happens automatically.

When you learn to touch type, the same process occurs. When you start out, you have to “tell” your fingers which keys to hit and where the keys are on the keyboard. As you improve, you don’t have to consciously think about where the keys are, and your fingers start to move automatically. A touch typist relies on muscle memory for fast and accurate typing, letting the fingers “think for themselves” while the eyes are busy scanning text to input, or the brain is coming up with ideas to get down on paper – or rather, the computer screen. Learn to touch type, and let your fingers do the thinking!

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