Beat gestures help preschool children to improve recall and language abilities

Beat gestures help preschool children to improve recall and language abilities


Alfonso Igualada2,3, Núria Esteve-Gibert2,4, Judith Llanes2, Olga Kushch2, Ingrid Vilà2, and Pilar Prieto1,2



2. Universitat Pompeu Fabra

3. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

4. Aix Marseille Université, CNRS


Gesture and prosody are important precursors of children’s early language development. However, it is unclear whether gestural and prosodic integration abilities can boost preschooler's memory and linguistic abilities. While researchers have shown that adults can benefit from the presence of beat gestures in word recall tasks, studies have failed to conclusively replicate these findings with pre-school children. This work investigates whether accompanying words with beat gesture and prosodic prominence can help preschoolers improve word recall in lists of words (Experiment 1), whether they might improve memorization and discourse comprehension of contrastively focused words (Experiment 2), and whether a training with observing narratives produced with beat gestures can boost children’s narrative skills (Experiment 3).

Results from Experiment 1 with one-hundred 3-to-5-year-old children showed that children recalled the target word significantly better when it was accompanied by a beat gesture than when not, indicating a local recall effect. Results from Experiment 2 with fifty-one 4 year-old children also indicate clear effects of observing beat gestures and prosodic prominence on the recall of the target focused items and on discourse comprehension abilities. Finally, results from Experiment 3 with forty-four 5-to-6-year-old children have also shown a positive effect on preschooler’s narrative discourse abilities.

Alfonso Igualada, Núria Esteve-Gibert, Judith Llanes, Olga Kushch, Ingrid Vilà, & Pilar Prieto