Please wait a minute...
Advances in Psychological Science    2020, Vol. 28 Issue (3) : 426-433     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2020.00426
Regular Articles |
A new perspective on the cognitive function of gestures: The “spatializing” gesture hypothesis
Wenhua YU1,Zhongyi LU2()
1 College of Preschool Education, Hebei Normal University, Shijiazhuang 050024, China
2 Department of Psychology, College of Education, Hebei Normal University, Shijiazhuang 050024, China
Download: PDF(550 KB)   HTML
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks    

Human beings often make gestures when talking or thinking. Gestures are generated automatically during cognitive processing or communication, and as representations, they in turn affect human cognitive processing. Although researchers have different emphasis on the concept of gestures, it is generally believed that gestures are different from direct actions and have internal and external cognitive functions. Seminal theoretical models include Lexical Index Model, Information Packing Hypothesis, Image Maintenance Theory, Semantic Specificity Hypothesis and Embodied/Extended Perspective. According to the main independent variables, the research paradigms fall into three categories, namely, allow-and-limit gestures, the change of gesture patterns, and changes of situation. In addition to in-depth study of the neural mechanism of cognitive functions of gestures and their intervention research, this paper proposes a theoretical model with more explanatory power - the "Spatializing" Gesture Hypothesis.

Keywords gestures      cognitive function      lexical index      information package      embodied cognition     
Corresponding Authors: Zhongyi LU     E-mail:
Issue Date: 18 January 2020
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Wenhua YU
Zhongyi LU
Cite this article:   
Wenhua YU,Zhongyi LU. A new perspective on the cognitive function of gestures: The “spatializing” gesture hypothesis[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2020, 28(3): 426-433.
URL:     OR
[1] 张盼, 鲁忠义 . (2013). 句子理解中颜色信息的心理表征. 心理学报, 45(4), 406-415.
[2] Alibali M. W., Spencer R. C., Knox L., & Kita S . (2011). Spontaneous gestures influence strategy choices in problem solving. Psychological Science, 22(9), 1138-1144.
[3] Arbib M. A . (2005). From monkey-like action recognition to human language: an evolutionary framework for neurolinguistics. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(2), 105-124.
[4] Beaudoin-Ryan L., & Goldin-Meadow S . (2014). Teaching moral reasoning through gesture. Developmental Science, 17(6), 984-990.
[5] Buccino G., Binkofski F., Fink G. R., Fadiga L., Fogassi L., & Gallese V., ... Freund H. J . (2001). Action observation activates premotor and parietal areas in a somatotopic manner: An fMRI study. European Journal of Neuroscience, 13(2), 400-404.
[6] Chu M. Y., & Kita S . (2008). Spontaneous gestures during mental rotation tasks: Insights into the microdevelopment of the motor strategy. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 137(4), 706-723.
[7] Chu M. Y., & Kita S . (2011). The nature of gestures' beneficial role in spatial problem solving. Journal of Experimental Psychology General, 140(1), 102-116.
[8] Chu M. Y., & Kita S . (2015). Co-thought and co-speech gestures are generated by the same action generation process. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory & Cognition, 42(2), 257-270.
url: of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory
[9] Clark A . (2008). Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
[10] Connell L . (2007). Representing object colour in language comprehension. Cognition, 102(3), 476-485.
[11] Cook S. W., & Tanenhaus M. K . (2009). Embodied communication: speakers' gestures affect listeners' actions. Cognition, 113(1), 98-104.
[12] Gentner D . (1982). Why nouns are learned before verbs: Linguistic relativity versus natural partitioning. technical report no. 257. Child Language, 2, 86.
[13] Glenberg A. M., & Gallese V . (2012). Action-based Language: A theory of language acquisition, comprehension, and production. Cortex, 48(7), 905-922.
[14] Glenberg A. M., & Kaschak M. P . (2002). Grounding language in action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9(3), 558-565.
url: Bulletin
[15] Goldin-meadow S . (2000). Beyond words: the importance of gesture to researchers and learners. Child Development, 71(1), 231-239.
[16] Goldin-Meadow S., Nusbaum H., Kelly S. D., & Wagner S . (2001). Explaining math: gesturing lightens the load. Psychological Science, 12(6), 516-522.
[17] Goldin-Meadow S., & Wagner S. M . (2005). How our hands help us learn. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9(5), 234-241.
[18] Goodrich W., & Hudson Kam, C. L . (2009). Co-speech gesture as input in verb learning. Developmental Science, 12(1), 81-87.
[19] Grade S., Badets A., & Pesenti M . (2016). Influence of finger and mouth action observation on random number generation: an instance of embodied cognition for abstract concepts. Psychological Research, 81(3), 538-548.
[20] Hasegawa D., Shirakawa S., Shioiri N., Hanawa T., Sakuta H., & Ohara K . (2015). The effect of metaphoric gestures on schematic understanding of instruction performed by a pedagogical conversational agent. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 361-371.
[21] Hostetter A. B., & Alibali M. W . (2008). Visible embodiment: Gestures as simulated action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(3), 495-514.
url: Bulletin
[22] Hostetter A. B., & Alibali M. W . (2010). Language, gesture, action! A test of the gesture as simulated action framework. Journal of Memory & Language, 63(2), 245-257.
url: of Memory
[23] Kang S., Tversky B., & Black J. B . (2015). Coordinating gesture, word, and diagram: Explanations for experts and novices. Spatial Cognition & Computation, 15(1), 1-26.
url: Cognition
[24] Kaup B., Yaxley R. H., Madden C. J., Zwaan R. A., & Lüdtke J . (2007). Experiential simulations of negated text information. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(7), 976-990.
[25] Kirk E., & Lewis C . (2017). Gesture facilitates children's creative thinking. Psychological Science, 28(2), 225-232.
[26] Kita S., Alibali M. W., & Chu M. Y . (2017). How do gestures influence thinking and speaking? The gesture-for- conceptualization hypothesis. Psychological Review, 124(3), 245-266.
[27] Kita S., & Davies T. S . (2009). Competing conceptual representations trigger co-speech representational gestures. Language & Cognitive Processes, 24(5), 761-775.
[28] Kita S., de Condappa O., & Mohr C . (2007). Metaphor explanation attenuates the right-hand preference for depictive co-speech gestures that imitate actions. Brain & Language, 101(3), 185-197.
[29] Krauss R. M., Chen Y., & Gottesman R. F . (2000). Lexical gestures and lexical access: A process model In D. McNeill (Ed.), Language and gesture (pp.261-283). Britain: Cambridge University Press.
[30] Leung A. K.-Y., Kim S., Polman E., Ong L. S., Qiu L., Goncalo J. A., & Sanchez-Burks J . (2012). Embodied metaphors and creative "acts". Psychological Science, 23(5), 502-509.
[31] Lhommet M., & Marsella S . (2014). Metaphoric gestures: Towards grounded mental spaces. 14th International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents Conference. Berlin, Germany: Springer International Publishing.
[32] Loughlin V . (2016). Zdravko radman, the hand: an organ of the mind, what the manual tells the mental. Phenomenology & the Cognitive Sciences, 15(2), 291-296.
[33] Mcgregor K. K., Rohlfing K. J., Bean A., & Marschner E . (2009). Gesture as a support for word learning: The case of under. Journal of Child Language, 36(4), 807-828.
[34] Mcneill D . (1985). So you think gestures are nonverbal?. Psychological Review, 92(3), 350-371.
[35] Mcneill D . (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
[36] Mol L., & Kita S . (2012). Gesture structure affects syntactic structure in speech. Cognitive Science Society, 34(34), 761-766.
[37] Mumford K. H., & Kita S . (2013). Children use gesture to interpret novel verb meanings. Child Development, 85(3), 1181-1189.
[38] Novack M. A., Congdon E. L., Hemani-Lopez N., & Goldin- Meadow S . (2014). From action to abstraction: using the hands to learn math. Psychological Science, 25(4), 903-910.
[39] Novack M. A., & Goldin-Meadow S . (2016). Gesture as representational action: A paper about function. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 24(3), 1-14.
url: Bulletin
[40] Novack M. A., Wakefield E. M., & Goldin-Meadow S . (2016). What makes a movement a gesture?. Cognition, 146, 339-348.
[41] Özçalışkan S., Lucero C., & Goldin-meadow S . (2016). Does language shape silent gesture?. Cognition, 148, 10-18.
[42] Pine K. J., Gurney D. J., & Fletcher B . (2010). The semantic specificity hypothesis: when gestures do not depend upon the presence of a listener. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 34(3), 169-178.
[43] Pouw W. T. J. L., de Nooijer J. A., van Gog T., Zwaan R. A., & Paas F . (2014). Toward a more embedded/extended perspective on the cognitive function of gestures. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(5), 1-14.
[44] Raos V., Umilta M-A., Murata A., Fogassi L., & Gallese V . (2006). Functional properties of grasping-related neurons in the ventral premotor area F5 of the macaque monkey. Journal of Neurophysiology, 95(2), 709-729.
[45] Rimé B., Schiaratura L., Hupet M., & Ghysselinckx A., . (1984). Effects of relative immobilization on the speaker’s nonverbal behavior and on the dialogue imagery level. Motivation & Emotion, 8(4), 311-325.
[46] Rizzolatti G., Camarda R., Fogassi M., Gentilucci M., Luppino G., Matelli M . (1988). Functional organization of inferior area 6 in the macaque monkey: II. Area F5 and the control of distal movements. Experimental Brain Research, 71(3), 491-507.
[47] Romano D., Marini F., & Maravita A . (2017). Standard body-space relationships: Fingers hold spatial information. Cognition, 165, 105-112.
[48] Sixtus E., Fischer M. H., & Lindemann O . (2017). Finger posing primes number comprehension. Cognitive Processing, 18(3), 237-248.
[49] So W. C., Ching T. H.-W., Lim P. E., Cheng X. Q., & Lp K. Y . (2014). Producing gestures facilitates route learning. Plos One, 9(11), e112543.
[50] Straube B., Green A., Bromberger B., & Kircher T . (2011). The differentiation of iconic and metaphoric gestures: Common and unique integration processes. Human Brain Mapping, 32(4), 520-533.
[51] Tucker M., & Ellis R . (2001). The potentiation of grasp types during visual object categorization. Visual Cognition, 8(6), 769-800.
[52] Umilta M. A., Brochier T., Spinks R. L., Lemon R. N . (2007). Simultaneous recording of macaque premotor and primary motor cortex neuronal populations reveals different functional contributions to visuomotor grasp. Journal of Neurophysiology, 98(1), 488-501
[53] Wagner S. M., Nusbaum H., & Goldin-meadow S . (2004). Probing the mental representation of gesture: Is handwaving spatial?. Journal of Memory & Language, 50(4), 395-407
url: of Memory
[54] Wesp R., Hesse J., Keutmann D., & Wheaton K . (2001). Gestures maintain spatial imagery. American Journal of Psychology, 114(4), 591-600.
[55] Wheeler M . (2013). Is cognition embedded or extended? The case of gestures. In Z. Radman (Ed.), The hand, an organ of the mind: What the manual tells the mental (pp. 269-301). Cambridge, Britain: MIT Press.
[56] Zwaan R. A., & Taylor L. J . (2006). Seeing, acting, understanding: Motor resonance in language comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135(1), 1-11.
[1] Suhong XIONG,Hongjie SUN,Ji LU,Qi YAO,Quancheng ZHANG. Eating behavior from the perspective of embodied cognition: Based on the mental simulation approach[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2020, 28(3): 486-496.
[2] XIE Jiaquan,XIE Changyi,YANG Wendeng. The effect of hunger on cognition and social behavior and its mechanism[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2020, 28(1): 141-149.
[3] YANG Yu,LI Ming,CHEN Hong. Effects of maternal stress on maternal behavior and psychological function[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2020, 28(1): 128-140.
[4] LI Ying,ZHANG Can,WANG Yue. The effect of moral emotions on the metaphorical mapping of morality and its neural mechanism[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2019, 27(7): 1224-1231.
[5] RU Taotao,LI Yun,QIAN Liu,CHEN Qingwei,ZHONG Luojin,LI Jinghua,ZHOU Guofu. Acute cognitive effect of ambient light exposure and its moderators and underlying mechanism[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2019, 27(10): 1687-1702.
[6] CHEN Lin,TIAN Xiaoming,DUAN Jinyun. The cognitive mechanism of advice taking[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2019, 27(1): 149-159.
[7] LI Heng. Implicit space-time mappings on the front and back axis and their influencing factors[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2018, 26(6): 975-983.
[8] LU Hong, ZHANG Xinyuan, WEI Wenqi, LIU Yi.  The influence of spatial physical order on psychology and behavior[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2018, 26(3): 560-570.
[9] Chuanjun LIU,Jiangqun LIAO. An analytical approach to understanding and solving the replication crisis of the embodiment effect[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2018, 26(12): 2260-2271.
[10] REN Zhi, ZOU Xia, ZHONG Shasha, LIU Wei.  Smoking: Promoting or impairing prospective memory?[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2017, 25(9): 1521-1526.
[11] GAO Zhihua; LU Zhongyi; CUI Xinying. What is the mechanism of negation processes? Introduction and commentary on psychological theories on negation[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2017, 25(3): 413-423.
[12] ZHANG Yu, LIN Wenjuan, WANG Weiwen.  Imbalance of central immunity and cognitive dysfunction: The role of TNFα[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2017, 25(12): 2036-2042.
[13] SUN Bingli; TIAN Yu; SUN Haiyang; WANG Wenzhong. Self: A Perspective from psychological counseling and therapy[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2016, 24(1): 83-90.
[14] ZHAO Dan; YU Lin. Influence of social interaction on cognitive functions in the elderly[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2016, 24(1): 46-54.
[15] YE Hongyan; ZHANG Fenghua. Embodiment in Moral Judgment[J]. Advances in Psychological Science, 2015, 23(8): 1480-1488.
Full text



Copyright © Advances in Psychological Science
Support by Beijing Magtech