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ARE WE SMARTER WITH OUR HANDS? Carla R. Kuhl and Dr. Stephani Foraker PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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ARE WE SMARTER WITH OUR HANDS? Carla R. Kuhl and Dr. Stephani Foraker

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Are we smarter with our hands carla r kuhl and dr stephani foraker


Carla R. Kuhl and Dr. Stephani Foraker



We all struggle to remember things. In our everyday life, our schedule demands that we remember lists of things to ensure that all has been done. This can include grocery lists, daily appointments, and even some things as small and mundane as items in a recipe. This makes memory not only an important topic to investigate, but learning strategies that aid our ability to remember and recall can help in learning strategies for children in grade school and even students in college. This study looked at the effect that memory learning strategies have on memory accuracy. While many studies have been done looking at whether gesturing aids memory retention, Goldin-Meadow & Beilock, 2010; Barresi & Silbert, 1976), it seems that as a memory learning strategy, imagery has a greater effect (Foraker & Ostrov, 2011). In this study, we attempt to find out why this might be the case. Could there be a connection between people who have a tendency to gesture and memory accuracy? We took it one step farther looking at the connection between gesture tendency, memory accuracy and fluid intelligence. In a study done by Wartenburger, Sassenberg, Foth, Franz & van der Meer, (2010), they looked at the connection between gesturing and fluid intelligence, and found that there was a significant effect between gesturing and fluid intelligence.

In this study we found that participants with a high gesture rate did have higher memory accuracy. When looking at this over both the immediate and delayed tests, we found that this significance was stronger in the gesture strategy group. When it came to the delayed test, gesture rate was still significant if you had the gesture strategy, but it was not significant if you had the imagery strategy. While we considered that this could be due to the fact that certain groups of people tend to gesture more than others, our results showed that participants who were assigned the gesture strategy and were higher in gesture production, did score higher in memory accuracy.

We did find that imagery strategy was more effective for memory accuracy than gesture, confirming Foraker and Ostrov (2010). We also added the component of fluid intelligence, and the results showed that fluid intelligence has a significant effect overall on memory accuracy. It also has a significant effect with fluid intelligence and participants who were in the gesture memory strategy. In our final hypothesis we predicted a positive correlation between gesture production and fluid intelligence. While we did not find a significant relationship overall, we did find that when looking at ways of calculating gesture rate, while SB was not significant, narrating a specific action task (Gift wrapping) the relationship was marginal.

Future research in this area should move towards finding the causal link between gesturing and memory accuracy. In this current study, we see there is a relationship between gesturing and accuracy, but other studies have shown that this is not the case all the time. Could it be that the words being gestured should be more action words instead of static nouns, as they were in the word-pair memory test? What if the word pairs represented all action unassociated word pairs, such as, zipper-plane, scissors-jump. Also for future research investigation of the correlation between fluid intelligence and gesture production in specified action tasks as it was show to be marginally significant in the current study.


Participants with high gesture rate would have higher memory accuracy. F (1, 2756) = 19.40, p < .001

Participants who use the imagery strategy should have a higher memory accuracy overall. F(1, 2756) = 191.94, p < .001

Participants will do better in immediate memory accuracy than delayed memory accuracy. F(1, 2756) = 680.84, p < .001

For participants who are assigned the gesture strategy, those higher in gesture production should score higher in memory accuracy.Interaction: F (1, 2756) = 8. 65, p = .003.

Participants who score higher in fluid intelligence will have higher memory accuracy. F (1, 2756) = 155.75, p < .001

There will be a positive correlation between gesture production and fluid intelligence scores. Average of both narrations: r (91) = + .13, p = .223; Gift wrapping description: r (91) = + .19, p = .068

p = .005


p < .001

p = .555

Gesture Rate

p = .002


  • Participants: 100 college students

  • Design: 2 x 2 x 2 mixed design ANOVA, Pearson r correlation, and finally Independent Samples T-Test

  • Materials:

  • To establish the two gesture production groups, we had participants perform two tasks designed to elicit natural gesturing:

  • Session 1:

  • View 2-minute entertaining action clip.

  • Describe how to wrap a gift.

  • Word--pair memory test- immediate (Ostrov, 2009).*

  • Session 2:

  • Word-pair memory test-delayed.

  • Raven’s Advanced Matrices Test (geometric-problem solving test).**

  • Gesture Annotation: Annotated gestures from videotapes of both clip and action description of each participant by two different researchers.

  • Counting gestures (4 criteria of gestures):

  • Representational: illustrates some action

  • Beat: showing emphasis or rhythm

  • Self-adapter: self-touching motion, i.e., scratching

  • Other: if gesture for something other than content

  • Incentives: (used to recruit volunteer participants)

    • extra credit in a psychology course

    • $5.00 gift card to Barnes & Nobles

  • * measured memory accuracy both on day 1 and day 2 of the experiment.

  • ** measured fluid intelligence


Barresi, J., & Silbert, S.E. (1976). Selective interference in Memory:

The imagery-repetition effect revisited. Canadian Journal of

Psychology, 30, 221-227.

Foraker, S., & Ostrov, M. (2011). When words are not enough: Does

gesturing facilitate learning more than imagery? Paper presented

at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association,

Boston, MA.

Goldin-Meadow, S. & Beilock, S.I. (2010). Action’s influence on

thought: The case of gesture. Perspective on Psychological

Science, 5, 664-674.

Hostetter, A.., & Alibali, M.W. (2008). Visible embodiment: Gestures as

simulated action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15, 495-514.

Sassenberg, U., Foth, M., Wartenbruger, I & van der Meer, E. (2011).

Show your hands – Are you really clever? Reasoning, gesture

production and intelligence. Linguistics, 49, 105-134.

Wartenburger, I., Kuhn, E., Sassenberg, U., Foth, M., Franz, E.A., &

von der Meer, E. (2010). On the relationship between fluid

intelligence, gesture production and brain structure. Intelligence,

38, 193-201.

Fluid Intelligence

p < .001

p < .001

p < .001

p < .001


Thanks for help with data collection: Megan Delo, Paula Russo, Perry Kent, Jr., Kate Mosier, and Erin Bacarri

Funding from Office for Undergraduate Research at Buffalo State College

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