Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 549–559 | Cite as

All Roads Lead to Rome: Instructors’ Pointing and Depictive Gestures in Video Lectures Promote Learning Through Different Patterns of Attention Allocation

  • Zhongling Pi
  • Yi Zhang
  • Jiumin YangEmail author
  • Weiping HuEmail author
  • Harrison Hao Yang
Original Paper


This study focused on how an instructor’s pointing gestures and depictive gestures differentially affected learners’ retention, transfer, and visual attention allocation. Eighty-five Chinese undergraduates were randomly assigned to view one of three video lectures in a laboratory. The videos varied in terms of the instructor’s use of gesture: pointing gestures, depictive gestures, or no gestures. As hypothesized, the results showed better learning performance after the videos that included either pointing gestures or depictive gestures relative to the no gestures video; interestingly, the effect of gestures in video lectures was greater for participants with low and medium prior knowledge. In addition, the type of gesture differentially affected learners’ visual attention allocation: pointing gestures directed attention to the relevant learning content of the PowerPoint slides, and depictive gestures drew learners’ attention to the instructor. The findings have practical implications: instructors are encouraged to use pointing gestures and depictive gestures in video lectures.


Pointing gestures Depictive gestures Video lectures Visual attention Learning performance 



This work was supported by the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2018M631118); the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (GK201803076; 19XJC880006); the Research Projects of Humanities and Social Sciences Foundation of Ministry of Education of China (17YJAZH104); and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (61877024).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Modern Teaching Technology (Ministry of Education), Center for Teacher Professional Ability DevelopmentShaanxi Normal UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.School of Educational Information TechnologyCentral China Normal UniversityWuhanChina
  3. 3.Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment towards Basic Education QualityBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.National Engineering Research Centre for E-LearningCentral China Normal UniversityWuhanChina
  5. 5.School of EducationState University of New York at OswegoOswegoUSA

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