More than Meets the Eye: Gesture Changes Thought, even without Visual Feedback


When speakers gesture, their gestures shape their thoughts, but how this happens remains unclear. What kinds of feedback from gesture—visual, proprioceptive, or both— drive these cognitive effects? Here we address this question using a test bed previously employed to explore gesture’s cognitive effects (Beilock & Goldin-Meadow, 2010). Participants solved the Tower of Hanoi puzzle, explained their solutions in speech and gesture, and solved the puzzle a second time. Previous studies using this paradigm have demonstrated that the gestures participants produce during the explanation phase affect their ability to solve the problem the second time. Unlike these prior studies, however, participants in the present study were blocked from seeing their hands while they gestured. Despite this absence of visual feedback, our results replicate previous studies in which visual feedback was available. These findings suggest that gesture may shape thought through proprioceptive feedback alone.

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