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Hand Gestures Might Determine How Fast You Learn, According To Study

Hand Gestures Might Determine How Fast You Learn, According To Study

University of Chicago psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow has been fascinated by the mysterious effect of gesticulation on learning and memory. She seeks to identify why people who talk with their hands tend to learn faster and remember longer than others.

The Experiment

Initially, Goldin-Meadow studied deaf children of hearing parents, or what she calls “home signers.” These children were not schooled according to standardized sign language, but had crafted their own signed speech. Goldin-Meadow has gone on to focus on gesture and learning. Importantly, the gesturing Goldin-Meadow studies is not signing, but what she calls “co-speech gesture,” that is, hand movements combined with speech to communicate ideas.

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She and her colleagues at the Goldin-Meadow labaratory have observed that children are more likely to remember the name of objects when they point (a type of gesture) at them. This can be seen in the classroom, where the gestures children choose may indicate their readiness for learning.

Goldin-Meadow’s research has found that children may first show they understand, through gesticulation, before they can verbally communicate understanding. For example, a student may point to the correct answer for a math problem her teacher has written on the chalkboard, but verbalizes incorrectly, revealing a ‘mismatch’ in learning.

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How to make use of mismatches in learning

According to Goldin-Meadow, “mismatch is a transitional state, between one in which gesture and speech are both incorrect, and they match, and one in which gesture and speech are both correct, and they match.”

The student’s teacher could make this a powerful learning opportunity by making explicit the student’s understanding. She could lead her student through a co-speech gesture, pointing to, and correctly verbalizing the answer to solidify the new knowledge. Goldin-Meadow confirms that gestures are “part of the learning conversation.”

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Any difference between concrete gesture and abstract gesture?

Goldin-Meadow’s research also reveals gesturing to be discrete from action. It’s one thing, for instance, to point to an object (gesture) and another to move an object (action). The distinction seems to make all of the difference, according to one of her studies in which she and her colleagues set up three groups of students to get closer at learning strategies.

In the “action” group, students were instructed to physically move plastic numbers on a whiteboard. In the “concrete gesture” group, students were asked to mime that same movement, but without touching the numbers. Finally, Goldin-Meadow had students in the “abstract gesture” group, use their fingers to create a peace-sign to show that they wanted to add the numbers on the whiteboard.

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The findings show that students of both the concrete gesture and abstract gesture group showed better understanding on the follow-up questions where they were asked to solve problems based on their knowledge of the math principle covered in the study.

Goldin-Meadow explains that gesture, “allows a space for abstraction.” When the mind is freed up from having to adhere to the, “particulars of an item, of a  problem, a word, or an experience,” it can focus on processing new information.

Though Goldin-Meadow has produced substantial provocative research, experts are still uncertain about the exact mechanisms at work when we combine gesticulation and speech. She postulates that gesturing serves to off-load some of the cognitive stress of learning, or the total mental energy a student uses to pick up novel information and commit it to working memory.

Featured photo credit: dooder / Freepik via freepik.com

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Last Updated on June 13, 2019

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

10 Best Success Books You Need to Read to Be Great at Business

Take a minute and think about some of the most successful people you know.

I’d bet they’re great with people, are super-productive, and think differently than most. After all, that’s how they got to be where they are today.

Jealous of them? You don’t have to be.

You can learn these same skills by studying some of the best business and success books that can help you take your game to the next level. Here’re 10 of my favorites:

1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book that helped to launch a personal growth empire should be required reading for everyone who wants to learn how to build and nurture relationships for a lifetime.

    Read this book and you’ll learn some simple advice than can help you build popularity points within your current network and just as important, expand it to others.

    Get the book here!

    2. Focal Point by Brian Tracy

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      Got a lot on your to-do list? Of course you do. But what separates productive people from others is their ability to focus on a singular task at a time, and getting it done before moving on to the next one.

      Sounds simple in theory, but this can be extremely difficult in practice. In Focal Point Brian Tracy offers tips to help build discipline and organization into your day so you can get more stuff done.

      Get the book here!

      3. Purple Cow by Seth Godin

        Creating a “me-too” product can be easy at the start but can doom you to business failure. That’s why marketing maverick Seth Godin recommends creating a product that is truly different from anything already available in the marketplace.

        In essence by making the product different you’ll be building the marketing into the actual product development…which just makes your actual marketing a helluva lot easier.

        Get the book here!

        4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

          If you’ve struggled with procrastination or small thinking, this is the book for you. In it Schwartz offers practical advice that can help you get inspired and motivated to create a bigger life for yourself. And with it can be a more lucrative and rewarding career.

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          Get the book here!

          5. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

            It can be difficult for lots of people to keep things in perspective, especially when working on high priority and urgent projects at work.

            Man’s Search for Meaning can be a life-changing book in the sense that it can open your eyes to a first-hand experience of one of the greatest atrocities in the history of mankind, while also teaching a valuable lesson about having purpose.

            Get the book here!

            6. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

              Solo-entrepreneurs can learn a ton from the guy who made lifestyle design popular. But guess what? The 4HWW isn’t just for guys and girls who want to start a small online business.

              Smart moves like outsourcing, following the 80/20 rule, and automating processes should be made by entry-level workers and established executives alike.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

                I remember sitting on a couch and opening this book on a Saturday morning, thinking I’d get through a chapter and then get on with my day. Instead, about 12 hours later, I was finished with the book. The concepts in it were mind-blowing to me.

                To think that thoughts can create your reality sounded a little far-fetched at first. But after going through the book and understanding that your thoughts create your beliefs, which lead to actions, which then lead to habits….well you can get where I’m going with this.

                If you focus your thoughts on success, achieving it will be much more likely than thinking about obstacles, failures and everything else that can get in your way.

                Get the book here!

                8. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard

                  If you’re going to read one management book in your life, this should be it. It’s simple. You can read it in an afternoon. And the advice works.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries

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                    Before you create any sort of business you’ll want to give Lean Start-Up a read through. Doing so can save you money, time and other resources you could have potentially wasted otherwise.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. The Monk and the Riddle by Randy Komisar

                      The story Randy Komisar shares in the Monk and the Riddle offers advice about not just about how you need to think when starting a new business, but also about how to build a life you’re passionate about.

                      Understanding the technical aspects of launching a start-up is great, but if you don’t have the staying power to stick with it when the going gets tough then it’s not likely to work.

                      This book can help you understand this lesson before you spend blood, sweat and tears on a project that you’re heart isn’t into.

                      Get the book here!

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