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Psychol Sci. 2001 Nov;12(6):516-22.

Explaining math: gesturing lightens the load.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA. sgsg@ccp.uchicago.edu

Abstract

Why is it that people cannot keep their hands still when they talk? One reason may be that gesturing actually lightens cognitive load while a person is thinking of what to say. We asked adults and children to remember a list of letters or words while explaining how they solved a math problem. Both groups remembered significantly more items when they gestured during their math explanations than when they did not gesture. Gesturing appeared to save the speakers' cognitive resources on the explanation task, permitting the speakers to allocate more resources to the memory task. It is widely accepted that gesturing reflects a speaker's cognitive state, but our observations suggest that, by reducing cognitive load, gesturing may also play a role in shaping that state.

PMID:
11760141
DOI:
10.1111/1467-9280.00395
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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