The purpose of this study was to identify whether gesture differentially affects spatial or non-spatial language comprehension and memory in both children and adults. Previous research (i.e. Goldin-Meadow, 1996, 2001; McNeill, 1992, 2005) examines only the role of gesture in learning without addressing development. For this study, participant’s baseline gesture rate is recorded and then stories containing either spatial or non-spatial components are read to the participants. Participants then receive factual and convergent comprehension questions. While answering, they either gesture naturally, are required to gesture, or are told not to gesture. A three-term inference problem task (Knauff & Johnson-Laird, 2002) and an operation span task (Deneman & Carpenter, 1980) are used to measure possible covariates. The results show that the gesture condition (natural gesture, no gesture, or forced gesture) and whether the story contained spatial or non-spatial components create two significant main effects but no interaction. This suggests that participant’s amount of gesture significantly increases when forced and participant’s gesture significantly increases when asked to think spatially, although these two conditions do not interact. The amount of increase in an individual’s gesturing during the forced gesture condition did not significantly predict their increase in memory for the stories.
Marrin, Gwendolyn and Olsen, Amanda, "The Role of Gesture in Spatial and Non-Spatial Learning in Children and Adults" (2013). Psychology Student Work. 14.