Working Memory and Co-Speech Iconic Gestures

AbstractThe importance of verbal and visuospatial working memory (WM) for co-speech gesture comprehension was tested in two experiments using the dual task paradigm. Healthy, college-aged participants encoded either a dot locations in a grid (Experiment 1), or a series of digits (Experiment 2), and rehearsed them as they performed a discourse comprehension task. The discourse comprehension task involved watching a video of a man describing household objects, and judging which of two words probes was most related to the video. Following the discourse comprehension task, participants recalled either the verbally or visuo-spatially encoded information. In both experiments, performance on the discourse comprehension task was faster when gestural information was congruent with the speech than when it was incongruent. Moreover, performance on the discourse comprehension task was impacted both by increasing the load on the visuospatial WM system (Experiment 1) and the verbal WM system (Experiment 2). However, in both studies effects of WM load and gesture congruency were additive, suggesting they were independent.

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