The Role of Gesture in Analogical Problem Solving

Kensy CooperriderUniversity of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Susan Goldin-MeadowUniversity of Chicago

Abstract

We hypothesized that gestures, which are often schematic in form, might play a role in making ideas more schematic and thus more transferable to new contexts. Adapting Gick & Holyoak’s (1983) analogical reasoning paradigm, we had participants read and retell two stories, one after the other, and then try to describe their similarities. The stories share a helpful strategy for solving a problem that participants would encounter later. Contrary to predictions, participants who spontaneously gestured about the helpful strategy during the retelling phase did not solve the problem as frequently as those who kept their hands still. But participants who spontaneously gestured about the strategy when comparing the stories during the similarities phase were not hindered in the same way. Our results suggest that gesture may have contrasting effects at different stages of analogical reasoning, perhaps through a common mechanism of maintaining and entrenching representations.

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