This study explored the facilitative effect of gestures in lexical retrieval and spatial memory. To resolve this problem, data was gathered by identifying the gesture rate of each participant when describing objects in two visual conditions – Visually Present (controlled) and Visually Absent (experimental). The experimental set up is designed to induce short-term memory activity which involves spatial memory (describing the aspects of the object) and lexical retrieval (finding the words to describe).
Participants (N=10) were asked first to describe an abstract image/object which is visually accessible (M1=11. 1000) then the procedure was repeated for another set of 10 participants (N=10) but the difference is that the abstract image/object used was is visually absent (M2= 16. 2000). After employing t-test for paired samples using SPSS, it was revealed that there is a significant difference in the gesture rate between visually present and visually absent conditions (t= 3. 024, or <0. 004).
It appears that gesture rates are higher when participants are asked to describe from memory than when the object is visually accessible. This suggests that gestures are more frequent when an individual is asked to describe orally what visual objects have just being seen and recalled from memory. Gesture and Memory: Does Lexical Retrieval Affect Gesture Rate? Man has long been enthralled by the interplay of gesture and speech and movement’s influence to communication (Krauss et. al. , 2001 reference to Kendon, 1983).
Kendon (1994) claimed that “gestures that people produce when they talk do play a part in communication and they do provide information to co-participants about the semantic content of the utterances, although there is a clear variation about when and how they do so (Kendon, p. 192). ” De Ruiter (2001) supported this proposition by establishing a scheme to associate gesture and communication. According to De Ruiter, gestures are compensatory mechanisms when there is a failure to retrieve words.
This mechanism however is not aimed to personally aid the speaker but to aid in effective communication and to assist the receiver of the information to understand the message (Krauss et. al. , 2001). As time passes by, there is, nonetheless, an expansion of perspective as to the scope of gesture’s relatedness to other cognitive constructs. Further, there was an explored association between gesture and speech which both have influence in memory retrieval and manner of communication. This succinct yet substantial body of research shows that gesture is indeed, facilitative in various cognitive processes.
Ravizza (2003), for example, conducted a study on the effect of gestures to lexical access in a tip-of-the tongue (TOT) state. In her two experiments, Ravizza aimed to investigate whether movement can assist word recall when an individual is taxed “to retrieve lexical items. ” To measure gesture, participants are allowed to tap their fingers in one condition but were compelled to stay still in another set up. Unfamiliar words were used as stimuli to induce TOT. In this experiment Ravizza found that allowing the participant to tap freely increases the probability of retrieving the correct word.
This study supported early claims by Frick-Horbury and Guttentag in press, (cited by Krauss et. al. , 2001), who claimed that there are more instances when gestures are used to assist retrieval such that of the tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) situations as a concrete example and which also serves as one way of communication. An experiment of Morsella & Krauss (2004) on the facilitative effect of movement in speech production has further verified these contentions. On the other hand, some related studies focused on spatial tasks. Erlich et. al. (2006) explored gestures relative to spatial task performance.
In their experiment on children, they observed that gesturing while explaining how a task is solved is relatively related with the higher performance of children in a spatial transformation task regardless of previous training. This experiment served as an affirmation to their conclusion that gestures are significantly associated to solving spatial tasks. Likewise, Trefton et al. (2006) explored the gestures made by experts and journeymen scientist when they are engaged in a task, and it was revealed that gesturing is most common in time aspect (time-change), then in geometric relations, and less in spatial magnitude.
This study found not only that gesturing is facilitative to spatial language but it also showed that there is varying gesture rate for a variety of spatial aspects. Two movements have been identified by Pine et. al. (2007) in terms of explaining the influence of gesture in cognitive processes by pointing to Information Packaging Hypothesis (Kita, 2000) which proposed gestures facilitates information packaging and Lexical Retrieval Hypothesis (Rauscher et al. , 1996) which claimed gestures as facilitative to word retrieval.
The first hypothesis was shown in the experiment of Alibali et. al. (2000) who proposed the facilitative effect of gestures in creating conceptual schemes thought to assist the production of language. The study compared conceptual and lexical aspects among children using wherein they asked the participants to either explain (conceptual) or describe (lexical) something, and found that although lexical retrieval is associated with gestures, more association takes place with conceptual processes.
As gestures and its association with other factors became more and more interesting to the eyes of experts, a few researchers have inverted the scheme, for example, Morsella & Krauss (2004), who, instead of exploring the effect of gesture, investigated factors that may influence gesture rate. In this study, they found that visual condition, the difficulty to remember and to verbally encode an object have certain effects to gesture rate. They revealed that “participants gestured more when describing visual objects from memory and when describing objects that were difficult to remember and encode verbally.
” This suggests a direct effect of gestures to spatial memory and lexical retrieval. Surveying previous researches in this phenomenon, it can be gleaned that much of the attention of researchers in the field has been focused on exploring the influence of gesture to certain cognitive activities such as tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) states (Ravizza, 2003; Frick-Horbury & Guttentag, in press), spatial task performance (Erlich, Levine & Goldin-Meadow, 2006, Trefton et al.
, 2006) but only one has engaged in the exploring the other way around – that is the effect of certain conditions to gesture – such as that of Morsella and Krauss (2004) which explored the effect of restriction, codability, and visual condition to gesture rate. The present study contributes to existing literatures by supporting earlier claims that gestures are associated to lexical retrieval having the assumption that if gesture rate is higher in a condition which involves word retrieval, then there could be a significant association with gesture and memory.
This is a simplified experiment to verify Morsella’s and Krauss’ (2004) experiment. Based on earlier findings, it is hypothesized that gesture rate will be significantly higher in the Visually Absent condition than when the object is visually accessible. In other words, the recent study suggests that the rate of gestures would be more increasingly observable for participants attempting to retrieve a word from memory. Method Participants Twenty participants were included in the experiments.
Since the experiment made use of within-groups design to eliminate possible influence of individual differences in memory retrieval and other potential extraneous variables, similar groups of participants were involved in both the controlled (visually present) and experimental (visually absent) conditions. Materials Pictures of abstract images were used and presented in the experiment to serve as stimuli for the Virtually Present treatment condition which is both tested as significantly valid internally and externally.
On the other hand, words which correspond to an object were used as stimuli for the Visually Absent Condition. In both conditions, the gestures of the participants were noted using a videotape recorder. Procedures The experiment involved two set ups. First, the participants were asked to verbally describe an abstract image which was currently and Visually Present. Take note that this first set up was the controlled condition. Second, the participants were then asked to verbally describe an image seen which was currently and Visually Absent.
The second set up was the experimental treatment condition designed to induce short-term memory (STM) activity. This short-term memory activity (STM) involves spatial memory inclusive of the participants’ likelihood to describe the characteristics and appearance of abstract image and also, the tendency to perform lexical retrieval, which is the tendency of person to search and find the right words or adjectives to describe a particular image/object or subject. It was intended that, in the latter, the participants were tasked to describe by short-term memory.
To facilitate the data gathering, a videotape recorder was used to note the participants’ rate of gesture. Participants are asked to describe the objects one by one and at constant time length. Results The lowest gesture rate for the Visually Present condition was . 10 while for the Visually Absent condition it was 0. 20. On the other hand, the maximum gesture rate was similar for both conditions (. 70). This is shown in Figure 1. See Appendices. Discussion The experiment was conducted to show that gesture had been a facilitative effect towards memory and lexical retrieval.
Prior to the study it was predicted that the gesture rate would be higher in the Visually Absent condition than with the Visually Present condition. As hypothesized, indeed, the visual condition has an effect on the gesture being wherein higher gesture rate is observed when the object is visually absent rather than visually accessible. The finding of this study is in line with that of Morsella & Krauss (2004) who have conducted a similar experiment and which had revealed that participants have a significantly higher gesture rate when describing an object/image from memory.
The only difference between the two studies lies in the complexity of earlier research which also considered Restriction and Codability as variables instead of mere Visual Condition. Likewise, Morsella & Krauss (2004) also used independent groups while the present study used within groups treatment. Relatively, Morsella & Krauss study also supported the studies of Erlich et. al (2006), Ravizza (2003), Frick-Horbury & Guttentag, and Trefton et. al.
(2006), having similar findings that gesture and visual presentations are associated to cognitive process of memory retrieval used for engaging in effective communication. However though, some difference in treatments, participants, and complexity among the approaches were present. This high gesture rate during Visually Absent conditions may be explained by certain factors. As cited by Morsella and Krauss (2004), Wagner et al (2001) propound that certain gestures can lessen the magnitude of the cognitive task when an individual is asked to explain or describe something.
This concept has been existing since the 1960’s when Dittmann and Llewelyn (1969), as cited by Krauss and Hadar (2001), propounded the functionality of some movements in relieving associated tension involved in the retrieval of words, say, for example, when words appear to be elusive (e. g. , TOT). Likewise, Alibali et. al (2000), proposed the facilitative effect of gestures in creating conceptual schemes that are thought to assist the production of language. Trafton, et al.
(2006) has also propounded that “one of the fundamental findings within the gesture research community is that people gesture when they are thinking about something spatial. ” This has a bearing in the procedure of the existing study in a way that the objects which the participants are asked to describe by memory are spatial in nature. In conclusion, the results of this study contributed to the existing literature supporting the contention that gesture is associated not just with communication per se but also with other cognitive constructs and processes.
Specifically, it showed that gestures are more frequent in describing thoughts from memory. It gives an insight regarding observable behaviors of individuals asked to describe by memory. Furthermore, it opens up possibilities to explore practical applications of this concept in other fields such as in education, as well as, in looking at other approaches like replicating the same study in an explaining, rather than, describing task. Indeed, there is a lot more to explore about gestures and memory.
In conclusion of such results, it is important to use inductive thinking to analyze the outcome of the experiment effectively and reduce the likelihood of confounding variables. Appendices Figure 1. The mean gesture rate for the control condition was . 3645 (SD = . 16008), on the other hand, for the Visually Absent condition was . 4650 (SD = . 15313) (see Fig. 2. ). Figure 2. Most of the participants had a gesture rate of . 6000 for the Visually Absent condition while there were multiple modes for the Visually Presented condition, . 3000 being the smallest value Furthermore, the middlemost score for Visually Absent condition was .
5000 while for the Visually Present condition was . 35 (see Fig. 3). Figure 3. A t-test for paired samples was employed to test the hypothesis set prior to the study whether visual condition has an effect to gesture rate or none. Table 1. Paired Samples Test Paired Differences t df Sig. (2-tailed) M SD SeM 95 % C. I of Diff. Lower Upper Pair 1 Absent – Present 0. 1005 0. 13728 0. 0307 0. 03625 0. 16475 3. 274 19 0. 004 Table 1 presents the summary of the data analysis conducted showing the mean difference (M = . 10050, SD = . 13728) between the two conditions.
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