Gesture facilitates three year olds’ understanding of a causal rule
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Abstract To investigate the role of gesture in three year olds’ understanding of a causal rule, 2 groups of children, a gesture and non-gesture group, were examined on their performance in a physical causality task that involved understanding of a straight and across rule in order to predict the path of a marble. The gesture group received the rules through speech accompanied with gesture, and were prompted to gesture during the task. The non-gesture group received the instructions through speech alone and were not prompted to gesture. To examine the interaction between age and gesture 3 age groups of children were tested: 3;0 to 3;3, 3;4 to 3;7, 3;8 to 3;11. A log-linear analysis revealed that the use of gesture improved all three year olds’ understanding of the across rule when the paths of the marble were in view and younger three year olds’ performance when the paths were hidden. A second part of the study examined the use of mismatches by participants. Mismatches occurred when childrens’ use of gestures did not correspond with their catching responses. Children were categorised into 3 groups: matchers, mismatchers, and non-gesturers that were compared in their ability to explain the rules of the causality task. Chi-squared analyses revealed that children who mismatched explained the across rule of the task correctly more often than children who matched their gesture and response or did not gesture. Children who mismatched or matched were more likely to explain the straight rule correctly than children who did not gesture. These results suggest that children who mismatched in this task had a greater understanding of the causal rule than children who matched or did not gesture.