-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Young children who use hand
gestures are better at problem-solving than those who don't use
gestures, a new study contends.
It included children 2.5 to 5 years old who were asked to sort
cards printed with colored shapes, first by color and then by
shape. The switch from color to shape can be challenging for
children in this age group, the San Francisco State University
The children who used hand gestures were more likely to make the
mental switch and group the shapes accurately, acording to the
study in the August issue of the journal
Gestures included children rotating their hands to show the
orientation of the card or illustrating the image on the card using
their hands. For example, they might gesture "rabbit ears" for a
card depicting a rabbit.
The researchers were surprised by the impact that gesturing had
on the children's ability to sort the cards.
"Still, the findings are consistent with a growing body of research showing that mind and body work closely together in early cognitive development," Patricia Miller, a professor of psychology, said in a university news release.
She added that the "findings are a reminder of how strong
individual differences are among children of a particular age.
Certain 3-year-olds look like typical 4-year-olds. This likely
reflects an interaction of natural talent and particular
experiences -- both nature and nurture, as usual."
Increasing evidence suggests that gesturing may play an
important role in the processes that people use to solve a problem
or achieve a goal, according to the news release. For example,
research has shown that gesturing can help older children learn new
"Really, though, there is evidence that gesturing helps with difficult cognitive [mental] tasks at any age," Miller said. "Even we adults sometimes gesture when we're trying to organize our tax receipts or our closets. When our minds are overflowing we let our hands take on some of the cognitive load."
The Nemours Foundation has more about
growth and development.
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