Listening and watching: The effects of observing gesture on preschoolers’ narrative comprehension

Alice Macoun, Naomi Sweller*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Observing gesture can have a beneficial effect on learning, however research into the role of gesture in preschoolers’ narrative comprehension is scarce. The present study compared different forms of gesture and their associated communicative value. Preschool-aged children viewed a short videotaped narrative with either accompanying iconic, deictic, or beat gestures, or no gesture. Half of the gestures presented provided additional information beyond that presented in speech, while the other half depicted no additional information. Observing gesture was found to facilitate narrative comprehension, with iconic and deictic gesture providing the greatest benefit to recall. These differences between conditions were found only for gesture which presented additional information to that found in speech. The results suggest that iconic and deictic gestures may be used as an additional teaching tool for assisting children in understanding narratives.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)68-81
    Number of pages14
    JournalCognitive Development
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


    • communication
    • comprehension
    • gesture
    • narrative
    • teaching

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