SRCD 2019 Biennial Conference
March 21-23, 2019
Title: Using Co-speech Gesture to Support Children’s Inhibitory Control during Analogical Reasoning
Session: Process-Based Approaches to Understanding Spatial Development: The Role of Attention, Language, and Gesture
Authors: Katharine Guarino, Robert Morrison, Lindsey Richland, Elizabeth Wakefield
Abstract: Analogical reasoning involves identifying underlying schematic structure shared between representations, for example, Figure 1 depicts similar ‘chasing’ relationships between a tiger and woman, and a lion and horse. This ability predicts academic achievement (Richland & Burchinal, 2013), yet, analogical reasoning is challenging: 4-year-olds are often misled by non-relational perceptual similarities (e.g. identifying there are tigers in both Figure 1 pictures) (Richland et al., 2006). Here, we consider whether using co-speech gesture during instruction changes the way children view scenes like this, and facilitates earlier success on analogical reasoning problems.
One reason gesture – meaningful movements of the hands – may be useful for promoting analogical reasoning lies in its potential to affect inhibitory control (IC), which is the capacity to voluntarily regulate attentional processes. IC is predictive of analogical reasoning ability. Children with low IC have difficulty solving problems that require directing attention away from featural components and towards structural similarities (Thibaut et al., 2010). Because gesture can direct visual attention towards spoken referents (Wakefield et al., 2018), it may promote better IC. Using a combination of behavioral and eye-tracking measures, we ask if instruction that includes gesture facilitates children’s IC during problems of analogical reasoning.
Fifty-seven children participated in a pretest-training-posttest design (Mage=4.89 years, SDage=0.48). At pre- and posttest, children solved problems requiring them to recognize structural similarities between scenes while ignoring perceptual distractors. During training, children were randomly assigned to speech-alone or speech+gesture instruction. Children watched videos in which relations within scenes were explained. In the speech+gesture condition, deictic gestures highlighted items referenced in speech, and path gestures highlighted the ‘chasing’ relationship.
Results support prior work that suggest IC is important for analogical reasoning, such that at pretest children with greater IC perform better (p<.001) and are less likely to select the perceptual distractor (p<.001). These children look more towards to the items within relations (p<.01), look marginally less towards the distractor (p=.065), and make more switches between the circled item and the distractor (p<.01). Furthermore, the inclusion of gesture during instruction increases these looking patterns during training: children who see gesture during instruction follow along more successfully with spoken instruction: looking more to the items within relations (p¬¬¬< .05), more to the correct choice (p¬¬¬< .05), and less to the perceptual distractor (p¬¬¬<.001). Therefore, while gesture supports successful performance at training (p¬¬¬< .001), it also seems to support looking patterns that mirror those of children with greater IC, such that at training, those children are demonstrating visual attention patterns that signify greater IC (i.e. looking towards structural relations rather than towards featural components). These findings suggest verbal instruction incorporating gesture benefits children’s analogical reasoning ability by facilitating their IC.