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Poster D100

Iconic gestures form “conceptual pegs”: Behavioral and ERP evidence

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC
Also presenting in Data Blitz Session 3 - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 1:00 – 2:30 pm EDT, Ballroom West.

Brianna E. Cairney1 (, Stanley H. West1, Eileen Haebig1, Heather D. Lucas1; 1Louisiana State University

Concrete words evoke more vivid mental imagery than abstract words, leading to enhanced memory for both the words themselves and paired associates (e.g., by serving as “conceptual pegs”; Paivio, 1965). We hypothesized that the addition of iconic gestures to spoken action words would mimic effects of concreteness. ERPs were recorded while participants heard unrelated verb-noun pairs (e.g., ‘…driving apple'). On some trials, the verb was accompanied by a matching iconic gesture (i.e., a steering motion for 'driving'). Free recall was used to test item memory (memory for gestured verbs) and associative memory (memory for verb-noun pairs). In Exp. 1, both types of memory were greater for word pairs accompanied by iconic gestures relative to no gestures or simple beat gestures. However, when the beat gestures were replaced with ambiguous “nonsense” gestures (Exp. 2), memory benefits were limited to the verbs. ERPs elicited by the nouns suggested that the ambiguous gestures may have caused a global shift in attention toward the gestures and away from the paired nouns. Indeed, when the same set of iconic- and non-gestured word pairs were studied without the nonsense-gestured pairs (Exp. 3), the associative memory benefit was restored. Moreover, under these circumstances, nouns preceded by iconic-gestured verbs elicited larger N700 amplitudes relative to those preceded by non-gestured verbs, suggesting enhanced associative imagery. Overall, these results suggest that iconic gestures can provide imagery and memory benefits that resemble those of concreteness. However, these benefits are reduced when listeners expect the gestures to be difficult to interpret.

Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Multisensory


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