The role of iconic gesture in facilitating memory and recall of lyrics

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Previous research has shown that bodily gesture aids in learning words and is useful for musical expression. However, no studies to date have examined the use of gesture in learning words and music together. The original impetus for the present study was observing students with cognitive disabilities learn musical songs, using gestures to reinforce the words and melody. This study aims to investigate if iconic gestures used by a conductor while songs are being learned, can facilitate better recall of song (lyrics and melody) compared with using no gestures, in the general population as opposed to a special needs population. Iconic gestures are visual representations, produced by the body (primarily hands), which carry referential meaning by depicting aspects of spatial images, actions, people, or objects. It is known that iconic gestures accompanying speech improve memory for words. This study tested the hypothesis that iconic gestures used by conductors will also facilitate recall of words and melody together, since they are stored in an integrated fashion. Recall accuracy was scored in terms of number of correct words, pitch, and rhythm. Results suggest that iconic gestures might help with learning and recalling lyrics to songs, but did not improve performance to a statistically significant degree. A primary finding of the study was that memorizing words and melody together yielded better memory than memorizing just the melody. In conclusion, using gestures to accompany words may aid in learning and remembering songs, which may be utilized in the context of music education. Future studies may consider long-term retention of songs, different types of gesture (iconic vs. beat), or simultaneous vs. sequential learning of gesture and song.

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  • 06/13/2018
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