The nature of the beneficial role of spontaneous gesture in spatial problem solving [Abstract]

Chu, M., & Kita, S. (2012). The nature of the beneficial role of spontaneous gesture in spatial problem solving [Abstract]. Cognitive Processing; Special Issue "ICSC 2012, the 5th International Conference on Spatial Cognition: Space and Embodied Cognition". Oral Presentations, 13(Suppl. 1), S39.
Spontaneous gestures play an important role in spatial problem solving. We investigated the functional role and underlying mechanism of spontaneous gestures in spatial problem solving. In Experiment 1, 132 participants were required to solve a mental rotation task (see Figure 1) without speaking. Participants gestured more frequently in difficult trials than in easy trials. In Experiment 2, 66 new participants were given two identical sets of mental rotation tasks problems, as the one used in experiment 1. Participants who were encouraged to gesture in the first set of mental rotation task problemssolved more problems correctly than those who were allowed to gesture or those who were prohibited from gesturing both in the first set and in the second set in which all participants were prohibited from gesturing. The gestures produced by the gestureencouraged group and the gesture-allowed group were not qualitatively different. In Experiment 3, 32 new participants were first given a set of mental rotation problems and then a second set of nongesturing paper folding problems. The gesture-encouraged group solved more problems correctly in the first set of mental rotation problems and the second set of non-gesturing paper folding problems. We concluded that gesture improves spatial problem solving. Furthermore, gesture has a lasting beneficial effect even when gesture is not available and the beneficial effect is problem-general.We suggested that gesture enhances spatial problem solving by provide a rich sensori-motor representation of the physical world and pick up information that is less readily available to visuo-spatial processes.
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