Beat gestures help preschoolers recall and comprehend discourse information

Judith Llanes-Coromina, Ingrid Vilà-Giménez, Olga Kushch, Joan Borràs-Comes, Pilar Prieto

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19 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 Elsevier Inc. Although the positive effects of iconic gestures on word recall and comprehension by children have been clearly established, less is known about the benefits of beat gestures (rhythmic hand/arm movements produced together with prominent prosody). This study investigated (a) whether beat gestures combined with prosodic information help children recall contrastively focused words as well as information related to those words in a child-directed discourse (Experiment 1) and (b) whether the presence of beat gestures helps children comprehend a narrative discourse (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, 51 4-year-olds were exposed to a total of three short stories with contrastive words presented in three conditions, namely with prominence in both speech and gesture, prominence in speech only, and nonprominent speech. Results of a recall task showed that (a) children remembered more words when exposed to prominence in both speech and gesture than in either of the other two conditions and that (b) children were more likely to remember information related to those words when the words were associated with beat gestures. In Experiment 2, 55 5- and 6-year-olds were presented with six narratives with target items either produced with prosodic prominence but no beat gestures or produced with both prosodic prominence and beat gestures. Results of a comprehension task demonstrated that stories told with beat gestures were comprehended better by children. Together, these results constitute evidence that beat gestures help preschoolers not only to recall discourse information but also to comprehend it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-188
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Beat gestures
  • Child development
  • Narrative comprehension
  • Prosodic prominence
  • Saliency effect
  • Word recall


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