To most, a clenched fist indicates anger. But a new study suggests that clenching your fist can help form memories and recall them later.

Research conducted by Ruth Propper and colleagues from Montclair State University focused on four groups of people who were asked to first memorize a list of 72 words and then later recall it.

People in one group clenched a right fist for about 90 seconds before memorizing the list and then did the same when asked to remember the words. People in a second group clenched a left hand before memorizing and recollecting.

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Two other groups clenched one hand prior to memorizing (either the left or right hand) and then opposite hand prior to recollecting. A control group did not clench a fist at all.

The group that clenched their right fist when memorizing the list and then clenched the left when recollecting did the best.

“The findings suggest that some simple body movements — by temporarily changing the way the brain functions — can improve memory,” Propper said in a press release.

So the next time you see someone clenching his fist, he might not be picking a fight with you, but trying to remember who you are.

The study was published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.