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ShaChris23's avatar

Why do you lose arm strength when the forehead is covered?

Asked by ShaChris23 (318points) November 23rd, 2012

I was attending this workshop, in which the speaker was giving this demonstration in order to make her point:

1) First, the male participant was asked to extend his arm out, perpendicular to the floor, and hold it as firmly as he could. She would push the arm down, but it was very difficult if not impossible to do so.

2) In the second round, in addition to having the participant extend out his arm, she covered his forehead with her hand (almost pushing against his forehead, I later learned from him.) Now, it was easy for her to push his arm down.

3) Her explanation: Forehead is one’s energy center; covering it blocks energy circulation, therefore one loses part of one’s strength.

What kind of -ology is this?

Are there scientific explanations for this?

Thank you very much for any help.

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20 Answers

Ron_C's avatar

I don’t know the answer either but will certainly track this question because I’d like the answer too.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m not sure I believe it. Have you tried it yourself?

Anyway, the forehead chakra is also the third eye. It is said that there is a gland there that does some significant things. Most of it is related to perceiving things. Maybe if you block it, it becomes hard to perceive what is going on around you, and that could lead to some lessened ability to be strong. I don’t know.

Anyway, you should investigate chakras.

The person who taught me about them told a story about the seventh chakra, which is on the top of the head. It is a very spiritual chakra, where the soul can pass through. During a marathon, a runner passed out due to being too cold or something. She was part of the ems team, and she said she could feel the person was dying. She put her hand on the top of his head, and prevented him or her from losing his or her soul, which wanted to leave. In doing so, she kept him or her alive.

Sorry I don’t know the story that well, but that’s all I remember.

ShaChris23's avatar

> Have you tried it yourself?

The participant was my friend, so I was sure it was not a set-up.

> It is said that there is a gland there that does some significant things. Most of it is related to perceiving things. Maybe if you block it, it becomes hard to perceive what is going on around you, and that could lead to some lessened ability to be strong. I don’t know.

I was hoping that there’d be a real physiological explanation, e.g. if you touch two areas simultaneously, the brain has to process two signals at the same time, etc. (Skin conductor thing?)

> Anyway, you should investigate chakras.

Actually chakra was the word that she used, but I thought that the chakra system is an ancient (+ intuitive) way of explaining physiology. I didn’t like that she attributed the result of her experiment to this ancient belief system.

ETpro's avatar

Suggestability is a powerful effect. So is peer pressure when before a large group of acolytes and in the hands of a teacher who is supposedly and enlightened one. Also, repeated efforts to sustain the same weight degrade the ability to do so. And judging whether the teacher is pressing down with exactly the same force in the first and second trial is highly subjective. Finally, the very firm pressure on the forehead could be used to establish leverage allowing a much firmer force on the forehead covered trial.

I just tested with dumbbells, but to make the test fair, I covered my forehead first and lifted the heaviest dumbbell I could hoist straight out in front of myself. Uncovering my forehead on the second trail, I was unable to lift any greater weight, but the weight I’d previously lifted was no easier to lift with my forehead bare. There was no difference. But then, I didn’t believe there was going to be a difference, and my expectations ruled. Perhaps your friend’s expectations ruled his physical abilities as well.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Do you have a video or remember the demonstration really well? There is a common scam that works this way, and it operates on an extremely simple trick: the demonstrator pushes down on different parts of the arm each time. There’s also a variant in which different actions are taken on the wrist that look similar from the audience’s perspective.

The trick is based on very old observations about anatomy—the same observations that inform exercise science and the martial arts. Some configurations of the body are stronger, and others are weaker. Moreover, most people don’t have a good sense for any but the most obvious ones. Thus it is easy to trick an audience (or an attacker) that isn’t in the know.

As the saying goes: knowledge is power.

Brian1946's avatar


First, the male participant was asked to extend his arm out, perpendicular to the floor….

Do you mean parallel to the floor?
If the participant is standing on the floor and his arm is perpendicular to it, his arm would probably be extended downward toward the floor.

ShaChris23's avatar

@Brian1946 Thank you for pointing me out. I meant perpendicular to the body, or PARALLEL to the floor.

ShaChris23's avatar

@ETpro Thank you so much for taking time to perform an experiment for me!!!

@SavoirFaire Yes, I looked at the video (duration of 2 minutes there). She pushed at the same spot, on the wrist. He’s a strong man.

CWOTUS's avatar

I saw a demonstration of something like this when I first started working in nuclear power plants.

At nuke plants, the Health Physics workers are the ones who have ultimate control in all radiation areas. They are, in effect, the controllers of everyone’s exposure to radiation. Sometimes they are required to tell people to evacuate an area, to stop working immediately, down tools, and walk away. Sometimes also, construction workers (and supervisors) being as they are, and radiation being completely undetectable by feel, smell, taste or any kind of visible cue, the workers are not willing to simply walk away on someone’s say-so.

The Health Physics workers on plants in the USA, coast to coast, and without regard to what company they work for, wear a particular shade of purple hard hat. (It’s the same color purple that is used in US radiation safety signs.)

In the demonstration I witnessed, an HP trainer had a construction worker in a radiation safety class (a mandatory class for all new workers at all plants) hold his arm out straight and resist the trainer’s attempt to deflect it downward. It was no contest; the construction worker was much larger and stronger than the HP guy, who could barely move the construction worker’s arm. Then the HP guy put on his hard hat, and had the construction worker simply focus his view on that hard hat as he attempted the same demonstration of strength. This time, the construction worker couldn’t hold his arm up, no matter how hard he tried. As long as he was looking at that particularly colored hard hat, he had much less strength than he normally would.

I don’t know the biochemical or biomechanical reason why this was so, but I have no doubt that it was an honest demonstration. Pretty impressive, I thought.

ETpro's avatar

@CWOTUS That’s definitely the placebo effect that I was alluding to when I mentioned the workshop member’s expectations that the instructor/boss knew what they were talking about, and so they would be weaker when their forehead was covered. That’s all before you even get into the trickery that @SavoirFaire notes above.

CWOTUS's avatar

Yeah, I understand about placebos. But this demonstration was apropos of no setup. No one in the room save the instructor knew what to expect from the demo. The construction worker and everyone else had no idea that he would simply not have the same strength, apparently just from the particular wavelength of the color he was exposed to. There was no explanation of, “Watch, the man won’t have the same strength as usual when he looks at my hard hat.”

ETpro's avatar

@CWOTUS The placebo in this case was the color purple, a color loaded with a chilling meaning to all present in the room.

whitenoise's avatar

If one has to resist downward pressure on extended arms being pulled down, there is a lot of different muscles involved in the back, shoulders and arms. Besides the strength needed for resistance, there is also a necessity to not fall forward. So the body is trying to keep its balance.

Now a second force is added: one to the forehead. This makes it harder to manage the body’s balance and not fall. The mind will allocate more of its efforts on maintaining balance and will sacrifice the task of keeping the arms extended in order to maintain balance. Especially since the amount of force used for the arms influences balance as well. Cutting that task/force from the equation will make it easier for the body to focus on standing upright.

hearkat's avatar

I don’t have time to read all the replies, but it sounds like basic biomechanics.

If the neck it resisting against pressure to the forehead (as you describe it, it was far more than just covering the forehead), then the anterior deltoids (not the strongest of the shoulder muscles, because it is rare for us to lift something up with or arms straight in front of us, except when weight-training) will lose some of their strength. I suppose the force to the forehead pushing backward, and the downward force on the arm pulling forward, has in influence, too.

I wonder if the effect would be as dramatic if the arm were held out to the side?

If simply covering the forehead reduced arm strength, baseball caps and football helmets would present a problem to athletes.

ETpro's avatar

@ShaChris23 I was attending this workshop, in which the speaker was giving this demonstration in order to make her point: That leaves me wondering what sort of point it was she wished to demonstrate. Was the actual point actually directly related to the demonstration of bio-mechanics, or was she attempting to demonstrate secret and arcane knowledge of mysterious, undetectable energy flows and thereby indicate that you should accept everything else she said because she was in possession of such mysterious, secret knowledge.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@ShaChris23 Thank you for the video. After watching it a couple times and experimenting with a few people, I am confident of two things: (1) it’s a variation on the trick I mentioned above, and (2) it has nothing to do with the forehead being one’s energy center. The correct explanation is basically the one that @whitenoise gave.

If it was merely a matter of covering the forehead, an opaque bag should do the trick. My experiments, however, show that it does not. Pushing on the forehead is essential, and specifically pushing back on the forehead. This causes one to lean very slightly, which is one of the weaker body configurations I mentioned above.

This is an old martial arts trick, though I’m sure it has been used outside of that context as well. Every throw involves changing the opponent’s center of gravity. This can be done by lowering the shoulder, misaligning the legs, or causing the torso to lean. Basically, anything that requires you to rely on secondary muscles. It’s all about balance.

@CWOTUS I can’t say for certain, but I think it’s just a distraction technique. I tried it using different focus objects (a yellow colander, a black hat, a pocket watch, and my own finger), and they all worked. Unfortunately, I don’t have construction worker available for the experiment. As far as I can tell, though, it’s a matter of the brain sacrificing the physical activity for the benefit of the mental activity. Perhaps the point being made is that one cannot rely on strength in a nuclear emergency? It doesn’t make sense, after all, for safety workers to wear a color known to make people weaker.

CWOTUS's avatar

Interesting point, @SavoirFaire. Since the demo occurred over 30 years ago I can’t recall all of the patter that went with it.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I tried this on my husband without telling him what was supposed to happen. Didn’t work.

It would be cool if it wasn’t a scam or power of suggestion. Unfortunately, findings that can’t be replicated aren’t substantiated.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
flo's avatar

These scammers want us to think they have more “knowledge” and they claim they want to help us to become more “knowledgeable”. Even if they don’t charge us at first, (like drug dealers don’t) they got us later.

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