Presentation and production

The role of gesture in spatial communication

Elizabeth E. Austin*, Naomi Sweller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


During social interaction, verbal language as well as nonverbal behavior is exchanged between speakers and listeners. One social task that often involves nonverbal behavior is the relaying of spatial direction information. The questions addressed in this study were whether presenting gesture during encoding (a) enhanced corresponding spatial task performance and (b) elicited gesture production at recall for adults and children. Children (3-4. years) and adults were presented with verbal route directions through a small-scale spatial array and, depending on the assigned condition (i.e., no gestures, beat gestures, or representational gestures), the accompanying gestures. Children, but not adults, benefited from the presence of gesture during encoding of the spatial route direction task, as measured by recall at test. Results suggest that the presence of gesture during encoding plays an integral part of effectively communicating spatial route direction information, particularly for children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-103
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Directions
  • Encoding
  • Gesture
  • Recall
  • Route
  • Spatial

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