Giving cognition a helping hand: The effect of congruent gestures on object name retrieval


Correspondence should be addressed to Karen J. Pine, School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK (e-mail:


The gestures that accompany speech are more than just arbitrary hand movements or communicative devices. They are simulated actions that can both prime and facilitate speech and cognition. This study measured participants’ reaction times for naming degraded images of objects when simultaneously adopting a gesture that was either congruent with the target object, incongruent with it, and when not making any hand gesture. A within-subjects design was used, with participants (N= 122) naming 10 objects under each condition. Participants named the objects significantly faster when adopting a congruent gesture than when not gesturing at all. Adopting an incongruent gesture resulted in significantly slower naming times. The findings are discussed in the context of the intrapersonal cognitive and facilitatory effects of gestures and underline the relatedness between language, action, and cognition.