A Virtual Agent as Vocabulary Trainer: Iconic Gestures Help to Improve Learners’ Memory Performance

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8108)


An important and often laborious task in foreign language acquisition is vocabulary learning. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that performing iconic gestures together with novel words has a beneficial effect on learning performance. Can these findings be transferred onto virtual agents applied in gesture-supported vocabulary training? We present a study investigating whether iconic gestures performed by a virtual agent and imitated by learners have an impact on verbal memory for words in a foreign language. In a within-subject design we compared participants’ memory performance achieved with the help of a virtual agent and those achieved with the help of a human trainer regarding both short-term learning effects and long-term decay effects. The overall results demonstrate improved memory scores when participants learned with a virtual agent. Especially high performers could profit from gesture-supported training with a virtual agent.


Vocabulary acquisition iconic gestures memory performance 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SFB 673, CITEC, Faculty of TechnologyBielefeld UniversityGermany
  2. 2.Department for Information SystemsUniversity of LinzAustria
  3. 3.Research Group “Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication”Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain SciencesLeipzigGermany

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