Doing gesture promotes learning a mental transformation task better than seeing gesture


Susan Goldin-Meadow, University of Chicago, 5730 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA; e-mail:


Performing action has been found to have a greater impact on learning than observing action. Here we ask whether a particular type of action – the gestures that accompany talk – affect learning in a comparable way. We gave 158 6-year-old children instruction in a mental transformation task. Half the children were asked to produce a Move gesture relevant to the task; half were asked to produce a Point gesture. The children also observed the experimenter producing either a Move or Point gesture. Children who produced a Move gesture improved more than children who observed the Move gesture. Neither producing nor observing the Point gesture facilitated learning. Doing gesture promotes learning better than seeing gesture, as long as the gesture conveys information that could help solve the task.