The effects of gesture restriction on spatial language in young and elderly adults


There is contradictory evidence on whether speech production gets impaired or enhanced when people are restrained from gesturing. There is also very little research on how this effect can change with aging. The present study sought evidence for these by asking young and elderly adults to describe two different routes on a map in spontaneous speech and when gestures were prohibited. We found that elderly adults produced more spatial language when they were restricted to use gestures compared to their spontaneous speech, whereas young adults produced comparable levels of spatial language in both conditions. Young and elderly adults used comparable levels of gestures in their spontaneous route descriptions. Yet, only young adults’ gesture use correlated positively with their spatial language production. Thus, the results of gesture prohibition on speech production are different for young and elderly adults.

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