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Giving Memory a Hand: Instructing Children to Gesture Enhances their Event Recall

Abstract

To investigate the influence of different kinds of gesture on children’s memory, 60 6- to 7-year-old children participated in an event conducted by the experimenters (“visiting the pirate”) and were interviewed to assess memory for the event approximately 2 weeks later. Children were assigned to 1 of 4 conditions; in 3 conditions, gesture was possible (gesture-instructed, gesture-modelled, gesture-allowed) whereas in the fourth condition (gesture-not allowed), children’s hands were constrained. The amount of gesture engaged in was limited but was greatest in the gesture-instructed condition. Children in the gesture-instructed condition, who were asked to gesture during the interview, recalled more than did those in the other conditions. Further, relative to children in the gesture-modelled and gesture-allowed conditions, children in the gesture-instructed condition conveyed significantly more information in gesture that had not also been reported verbally. Although further research is necessary to understand the underlying mechanism, the findings suggest that instructing children to gesture as well as verbally recall an experience has cognitive and communicative benefits.

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Correspondence to Karen Salmon.

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Elizabeth Stevanoni and Karen Salmon are affiliated with the School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

We thank the children, parents, teachers and principals at the participating schools, St Michaels and Villa Maria Primary Schools, and acknowledge Kay Pegg for help with data collection.

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Stevanoni, E., Salmon, K. Giving Memory a Hand: Instructing Children to Gesture Enhances their Event Recall. J Nonverbal Behav 29, 217–233 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-005-7721-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-005-7721-y

Keywords

  • children
  • event memory
  • instructed gesture
  • spontaneous gesture