Learning what children know about space from looking at their hands: The added value of gesture in spatial communication

Megan Sauter*, David H Uttal, Amanda Schaal Alman, Susan Goldin-Meadow, Susan C. Levine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article examines two issues: the role of gesture in the communication of spatial information and the relation between communication and mental representation. Children (8-10. years) and adults walked through a space to learn the locations of six hidden toy animals and then explained the space to another person. In Study 1, older children and adults typically gestured when describing the space and rarely provided spatial information in speech without also providing the information in gesture. However, few 8-year-olds communicated spatial information in speech or gesture. Studies 2 and 3 showed that 8-year-olds did understand the spatial arrangement of the animals and could communicate spatial information if prompted to use their hands. Taken together, these results indicate that gesture is important for conveying spatial relations at all ages and, as such, provides us with a more complete picture of what children do and do not know about communicating spatial relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-606
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume111
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012

Keywords

  • Child development
  • Communication
  • Gesture
  • Learning
  • Spatial cognition
  • Spatial representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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