Gesture in Children's and Adults' Communication and Representation of Spatial Information

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The representation and communication of spatial information is important to the functioning of children and adults in the physical world. Yet little research has included both areas in the same studies. This research program was designed to investigate both the communication and representation of spatial information within a developmental context. In addition, although there is mounting evidence for the importance of gesture in communication and representation (see Goldin-Meadow, 2003), few previous studies have considered both verbal and non-verbal means of communication or have investigated gesture's role in spatial representation. Therefore, this research program was also designed to explore gesture's roles in spatial communication and representation. In 3 studies, we investigated 8-10-year-old children's and adults' communication and representation of a novel space. To assess communication, participants were asked to give descriptions of the space to a naïve listener. To assess representation, participants were asked to construct a model of the space. We observed both speech and gesture production in descriptions. Results revealed a developmental progression in gesture production. The oldest children and adults were more likely than the youngest children to use their hands to indicate the locations of objects within the space. Study 2 showed that gesture production can be manipulated; children were encouraged to gesture while adults were prevented from doing so. Study 3 explored the model construction task in greater depth by administering variations of it. Overall, these studies highlight the importance of including measures of both communication and representation and considering gesture in developmental research.

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  • 06/05/2018
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