Effects of Gesture on Analogical Problem Solving: When the Hands Lead you Astray


We investigated the role of speech-accompanying gestures in analogical problem solving. Participants attempted to solve Duncker’s (1945) Radiation Problem after reading and retelling a story that described an analogous solution in a different domain. Participants were instructed to gesture, instructed not to gesture, or given no instructions regarding gesture as they retold the story. Participants who were instructed to gesture as they retold the analogous story were more likely to mention perceptual details in their description and less likely to apply the analogous solution to the problem than participants who were instructed not to gesture. These results suggest that gestures can be detrimental to analogous problem solving when the perceptual elements of a story are irrelevant to its schematic similarity with a problem.

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