Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Put your hands where my eyes could see

How bout a post on the relationship between gestures and abstract mental processes for a Wednesday morning, hmm? OMG, you guys fall deeper in love with me with each passing day.

New research says that talking with your hands as you speak not only helps you get your point across to the people you're talking to, it can help you (the speaker) think more clearly. For example, students who gestured while discussing math problems were better at learning how to solve the problems:

May 19, 2009
With a wave of the hand:
How using gestures can make you smarter

I also wanted to post "The LA," "The A," and "The Slayer/Metallica/Dio/Black Sabbath," but I managed to rein myself in.

"The drive to gesture when speaking is fundamental to human nature.
But might gesture also serve another purpose? Many scientists now think that gestures can help the person making them -- that moving your hands can help you think. Researchers have become increasingly interested in the connection between the body and thought – in the ways that our physical body shapes abstract mental processes. Gesture is at the center of this discussion.

To understand the research, consider a math problem like 3+2 +8 =___+8. A student might make a “v” shape under the 2 and 3 with their pointer finger and middle finger, as they try to understand the concept of “grouping” – adding adjacent numbers together, a technique that can be used to solve the problem. Previous research has shown that students who are asked to gesture while talking about math problems are better at learning how to do them. This is true whether the students are told what gestures to make, or whether the gestures are spontaneous.

Now researchers are asking how. The new study...focused on third and fourth graders solving a problem that required grouping. Students who are coached to make the “v” gesture when solving a math problem like 3+2+8 = ___+8 learn how to solve the problem better. But students also do a better job even if they were coached to make the “v” shape under the wrong pair of numbers. The very act of making the “v” shape introduces the concept of “grouping” to the student, through the body itself.

The same process could occur in any situation where the person who is speaking and gesturing is also trying to understand – be it remembering details of a past event, or figuring out how to put together an Ikea shelf."

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