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Make Gestures to Learn: Reproducing Gestures Improves the Learning of Anatomical Knowledge More than Just Seeing Gestures

  • Cherdieu, Melaine
  • Palombi, Olivier
  • Gerber, Silvain
  • Troccaz, Jocelyne
  • Rochet-Capellan, Amélie
Publication Date
Oct 05, 2017
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Manual gestures can facilitate problem solving but also language or conceptual learning. Both seeing and making the gestures during learning seem to be beneficial. However, the stronger activation of the motor system in the second case should provide supplementary cues to consolidate and re-enact the mental traces created during learning. We tested this hypothesis in the context of anatomy learning by naïve adult participants. Anatomy is a challenging topic to learn and is of specific interest for research on embodied learning, as the learning content can be directly linked to learners' body. Two groups of participants were asked to look at a video lecture on the forearm anatomy. The video included a model making gestures related to the content of the lecture. Both groups see the gestures but only one also imitate the model. Tests of knowledge were run just after learning and few days later. The results revealed that imitating gestures improves the recall of structures names and their localization on a diagram. This effect was however significant only in long-term assessments. This suggests that: (1) the integration of motor actions and knowledge may require sleep; (2) a specific activation of the motor system during learning may improve the consolidation and/or the retrieval of memories.

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