Theses Doctoral

Gesturing at Encoding Enhances Episodic Memory Recall for Older Adults.

Simhairi, Voula Sadie

Gestures have been shown to enhance memory recall for children and adults, but little research has investigated the benefits of gesturing to recall in older adult populations. While theory suggests that older adults may be less embodied, that their cognitive and perceptual processes may be less grounded in their sensorimotor capacities, the literature is unclear on whether or not gesturing is still associated with memory in this population. To test the effect of gesturing on recall we compare 58 younger (20-29 yrs) and 62 older (60-85yrs) adults’ performance on an episodic memory recall task (immediately, and at a 3-week delay) after randomly assigning participants to two conditions (instructed gesture or free gesture). In the free gesture condition participants were allowed to freely gesture while describing 26 3-second-long vignettes. Participants in the instructed gesture condition were additionally asked to provide meaningful gestures while providing descriptions to vignettes. Analyzing observational data from the free gesture conditions, we found that both immediately and at a delay, younger and older adults recalled more of the vignettes that they had spontaneously gestured for than those that they had not gestured for. When looking at the effects of instructing gesture, we found that asking older adults to gesture increased their overall recall of vignettes at a delay when compared to older adults left to freely gesture. The same increase to recall was not found for younger adults. These findings suggest that spontaneous gesturing at encoding is just as significant to episodic memory recall for older adults as it is for younger adults, and that asking older adults to gesture may additionally benefit episodic memory for older adults.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Black, John B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 28, 2021