Co-thought gesturing supports more complex problem solving
in subjects with lower visual working-memory capacity
Eielts, C., Pouw, W., Ouwehand, K., Van Gog, T., Zwaan, R. A., & Paas, F.
Co-thought gesturing supports more complex problem solving in subjects with lower visual working-memory capacity. Psychological Research, 84
, 502-513. doi:10.1007/s00426-018-1065-9.
During silent problem solving, hand gestures arise that have no communicative intent. The role of such co-thought gestures in
cognition has been understudied in cognitive research as compared to co-speech gestures. We investigated whether gesticulation
during silent problem solving supported subsequent performance in a Tower of Hanoi problem-solving task, in relation
to visual working-memory capacity and task complexity. Seventy-six participants were assigned to either an instructed gesture
condition or a condition that allowed them to gesture, but without explicit instructions to do so. This resulted in three
gesture groups: (1) non-gesturing; (2) spontaneous gesturing; (3) instructed gesturing. In line with the embedded/extended
cognition perspective on gesture, gesturing benefited complex problem-solving performance for participants with a lower
visual working-memory capacity, but not for participants with a lower spatial working-memory capacity.