Individual differences in mental rotation: what does gesture tell us?
- 710 Downloads
Gestures are common when people convey spatial information, for example, when they give directions or describe motion in space. Here, we examine the gestures speakers produce when they explain how they solved mental rotation problems (Shepard and Meltzer in Science 171:701–703, 1971). We asked whether speakers gesture differently while describing their problems as a function of their spatial abilities. We found that low-spatial individuals (as assessed by a standard paper-and-pencil measure) gestured more to explain their solutions than high-spatial individuals. While this finding may seem surprising, finer-grained analyses showed that low-spatial participants used gestures more often than high-spatial participants to convey “static only” information but less often than high-spatial participants to convey dynamic information. Furthermore, the groups differed in the types of gestures used to convey static information: high-spatial individuals were more likely than low-spatial individuals to use gestures that captured the internal structure of the block forms. Our gesture findings thus suggest that encoding block structure may be as important as rotating the blocks in mental spatial transformation.
KeywordsMental rotation Individual differences Gesture
This research was supported in part by a grant to the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, funded by the National Science Foundation (grant numbers SBE-0541957 and SBE-1041707), and by NICHD R01 HD47450 and NSF BCS-0925595 (to SGM), and by a National Science Foundation Fostering Interdisciplinary Research on Education grant (DRL- 1138619). We would like to thank Shannon Fitzhugh, Dominique Dumay for their assistance in collecting data, Michelle Chery for reliability coding, and the RISC group at Temple University for their helpful comments in this research.
- Alibali MW (2005) Gesture in spatial cognition: expressing, communicating and thinking about spatial information. Spat Cogn Comput 5:307–331Google Scholar
- Cooper LA, Shepard RN (1973) Chronometric studies of the rotation of mental images. In: Chase WG (ed) Visual information processing. Academic Press, New York, pp 75–176Google Scholar
- Ehrlich SB, Levine SC, Goldin-Meadow S (2006) The importance of gesture in children’s spatial reasoning. Dev Psychol 42:1259–1268Google Scholar
- Goldin-Meadow S (2003) Hearing gesture: how our hands help us think. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
- Goldin-Meadow S, Levine SL, Zinchenko E, Yip TK-Y, Hemani N, Factor L (in press) Doing gesture promotes learning a mental transformation task better than seeing gesture. Dev SciGoogle Scholar
- Hegarty M, Mayer S, Kriz S, Keehner M (2005) The role of gestures in mental animation. Spat Cogn Comput 5:333–335Google Scholar
- Hostetter AB, Alibali MW, Bartholomew AE (2011) Gesture during mental rotation. In: Carlson L, Hoelscher C, Shipley TF (eds) Proceedings of the 33rd annual conference of cognitive science society. Cognitive Science Society, Austin, TX, pp 1448–1453Google Scholar
- Shepard R, Cooper L (1982) Mental images and their transformations. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
- Wohlschlager A, Wohlschlager A (1998) Mental and manual rotation. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2:397–412Google Scholar
- Xu L, Franconeri SL (in press) The head of the table: the location of the spotlight of attention may determine the ‘front’ of ambiguous objects. J NeurosciGoogle Scholar