Gestures on Cognitive Resources : Gesturing to Describe Visuospatial Stimuli and Test Memory
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Gesture production reduces the cognitive load and increases working memory capabilities on secondary tasks when specifically compared to restricting gesture production. The aim of this study was to test whether gesture production is reducing the cognitive load or if restricting gesture production adds to the cognitive load by adding a control task whether participants neither gestured nor restricted gesture. Participants were exposed to story events in the form of sentences or a corresponding video and asked to recall them either while gesturing, not gesturing, or by typing their description. Typing was used as a control to analyze whether gesturing has a positive effect on working memory comparable to typing and restricting gesture. It was hypothesized that gesture production when describing a visual stimulus, in this case a cartoon video, would result in the highest performance on a secondary visuospatial working memory task. However, participants did not perform significantly better on either of the memory tasks when instructed to gesture, to not gesture, or to type within the spatial or the verbal condition. There was no significant difference in performance between any conditions. The results of the study do not support the findings of previous research on the effects of gesture on the working memory. Gestures may not be an effective resource for decreasing the cognitive load and increasing performance on a secondary memory task. It is suggested that there may be individual differences in working memory capabilities as well as the spatial and verbal skill aptitude. It is possible that a higher level of working memory capabilities of an individual and the limited complexity of the secondary memory task mitigated the contribution of the production of gesture during recall.
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