The Science of Fidget Spinners

Pardon this spin-terruption, but we have exciting news. Phenomenex has officially been fidget-ized! …Spin-terized? …Spin-sonified? Whatever you want to call it, we have joined the continuing fad of fidget spinners, or as we like to call them, Phegit™ spinners!

At first, many were reluctant. Having never spun the spun, it was hard to join the obsession with these new toys. But then we had our scientists give them a whirl.

After dropping some knowledge on this “young persons” fad, our scientists couldn’t wait to get their hands on their very own fidget spinner. See their reactions below:

Sure, these magnificent distractions are addictive, but what is behind the obsession? What is the science behind these mesmerizing toys? It might not be one of the most complex inventions, but that whirling sound really makes you wonder, how did the fidget spinner come to be?

This gadget that is nothing more than three weighted prongs that just spin and spin, has been around in some form since 1993. However, in the last few months, the fidget spinner has taken off at an alarming rate. It dominated Amazon’s top-selling toys and games list, stores couldn’t seem to keep them on their shelves, and Toy “R” Us supposedly charted jets to ship spinners to their stores.

Fidgeting is not a new human behavior. Attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD, is a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, or a combination according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

“About 60 percent of children with ADHD in the United States become adults with ADHD; that’s about 4 percent of the adult population, or 8 million adults.” It turns out that less than 20 percent of adults with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated, and only about one-quarter of those adults seek help.

That leaves millions of adults with ADHD going through their days without help. That is where the fidget spinner whirls in to action. Some retailers claim that the fidget spinner has health benefits such as easing stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and ADHD. However, it has a lot of people questioning the legitimacy of these claims.

fidget spinner

The momentum of the toy is supposed to provide a pleasing sensory experience in order to allow for greater concentration for people with the conditions listed above. Occupational therapists often use sensory toys to soothe kids who have sensory-processing issues.

One scientific theory is that body movements are actually part of the thinking and expression process. Think back to when you were writing an important paper, getting ready for a big speech or presentation, or just trying to decide on where to eat, now try picturing those actions, but sitting exceptionally still. It isn’t easy, almost feels unnatural.

Another theory is that fidgeting can occupy the parts of your brain that would otherwise be distracting the rest of your brain with random thoughts and actions. This thought believes that fidgeting can potentially prevent your mind from being occupied by obsessive and unhealthy thoughts.

Some studies have even published theories on how fidgeting helps to prevent disease. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, fidgeting may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality associated with excessive sitting time. From a sample of women in the United Kingdom, fidgeting seemed to counteract these dangers. This is not to say that fidgeting will save you and that you shouldn’t work out, but it is just an added benefit to these addictive past times.

The science behind fidget spinners is still not exceptionally strong, but that is usually the case with new products on the market. With a shortage of funding for many science studies, fidget spinners have most likely fallen to the bottom of the pile. However, with the studies that have already been done on the act of fidgeting and the benefits it can provide to those who are diagnosed with ADHD and post-traumatic stress disorder, we can draw a conclusion that fidget spinners are not harmful to them.

But are they a good thing for those not dealing with a condition? Schools across the globe have begun to ban fidget spinners from the classroom claiming that they are a distraction. A kid tapping their foot or spinning a pen is barely noticed, but trying to take off with a mini propeller in their hands might distract both kids and the teacher.

Whether you find them annoying or the best way to stay focused, fidget spinners will be with us for at least a little longer. So why not give them a try?

Make those wait times in the lab whirl by with your very own spinner! Check out for a chance to get your hands on one.

fidget spinner4



Scientist Who Spin
Scientist Who Spin

Pardon this spin-terruption, but we recently surprised our scientists with fidget spinners and had them give ‘em a whirl.

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