Download the full-sized PDF of The Influence of Gesture Production upon Reading Comprehension Outcomes across DevelopmentDownload the full-sized PDF



Permanent link (DOI):


Export to: EndNote  |  Zotero  |  Mendeley


This file is in the following communities:

Graduate Studies and Research, Faculty of


This file is in the following collections:

Theses and Dissertations

The Influence of Gesture Production upon Reading Comprehension Outcomes across Development Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Smithson, Lisa J
Supervisor and department
Nicoladis, Elena (Department of Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Dixon, Peter (Department of Psychology)
Pexman, Penelope (Department of Psychology, University of Calgary)
Wiebe, Sandra (Department of Psychology)
Caplan, Jeremy (Department of Psychology)
Department of Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
When engaged in a reading comprehension task, the reliance upon a verbal or visuospatial strategy is associated with different outcomes (Johnson-Glenberg, 2000). More specifically, individuals who adopt a verbal strategy tend to demonstrate enhanced recall of information that is explicitly stated in the text while individuals who adopt a visuospatial strategy tend to demonstrate enhanced recall of information that must be inferred from a text (Johnson-Glenberg, 2000). Previous research has shown that gesture production can influence strategy use in a problem-solving task (Alibali, Spencer, Knox, & Kita, 2011). The purpose of the current research was to investigate whether gesture production influences reliance upon a verbal or visuospatial strategy in a reading comprehension task and to determine whether gesture production influences reading comprehension outcomes. Previous research has demonstrated that the generation of text summaries improves reading comprehension (McKeown, Beck, & Blake, 2009). In Study 1, adult participants were presented with easy and standard reading passages that were divided into three paragraphs. Participants were randomly assigned to communicate everything that they could remember from each of the paragraphs in one of four experimental conditions: (1) Gesture: participants were encouraged to use meaningful hand gestures during summary generation, (2) Restricted: participants were restricted from moving their hands during summary generation, (3) Control: participants were not provided with any instructions regarding their movement during summary generation, (4) Written: participants were asked to write down their summaries. Measures of vocabulary, verbal working memory, visuospatial working memory, and motivation were obtained. Among participants in the Gesture and Control conditions, visuospatial working memory and motivation measures were the best predictors of reading comprehension outcomes, whereas among the participants in the Restricted condition, vocabulary was the best predictor of reading comprehension outcomes. Though individuals in the Gesture condition did not experience any notable reading comprehension outcome advantages, individuals who gestured spontaneously in the Control condition did. Further analyses revealed that verbal working memory was a negative predictor of gesture rate. It was hypothesized that gesture production may only be beneficial in the context of a reading comprehension task when verbal working memory resources are taxed. In Study 2, this hypothesis was tested among children by using reading passages of three levels of increasing difficulty. Children were randomly assigned to a Gesture or Control condition. Children in the Gesture condition demonstrated an advantage on both measurements of reading comprehension that did not require the generation of inferences and those that did. In conclusion, these findings suggest that gesture production can influence strategy use in a reading comprehension task. Research methodologies used to assess reading comprehension vary with respect to whether participants are free to move (e.g., Chinn, Anderson, & Waggoner, 2001) or are restricted from moving (e.g., Humphreys & Gennari, 2014). The results from this study suggest that these methodologies may promote different strategies, thereby biasing research in this field. The results from this study also suggest that gesture production may be a useful strategy for individuals who struggle with verbal skills. When children have difficulty understanding text, it may be useful for caregivers and teachers to encourage them to use their hands to represent the ideas presented in the text in meaningful ways.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication

File Details

Date Uploaded
Date Modified
Audit Status
Audits have not yet been run on this file.
File format: pdf (PDF/A)
Mime type: application/pdf
File size: 1974968
Last modified: 2015:10:12 20:58:59-06:00
Filename: Smithson_Lisa_J_201409_PhD.pdf
Original checksum: 1327557e20a70a244e5ec57b40f57759
Activity of users you follow
User Activity Date