Thoughts on the table: Gesture as a tool for thinking in blind and visually impaired children

Main Article Content

Anna Jelec
Dorota Jaworska

Abstract

The theory of embodiment (Lakoff and Johnson 2003; Gibbs et al. 2004) explains the origin of meaning by postulating that thought is influenced by sensorimotor experience (Robbins and Aydede 2009). However, the relation between the body, mind and environment is not unidirectional. Not only do we derive information from the world, but we are also able to use it as an extension of the mind through epistemic actions, strategies that minimize the cognitive load by offloading it onto the environment (Kirsh and Maglio 1994). This paper investigates the potential of gesture as epistemic action. 12 blind and severely visually impaired children and young adults, as well as a control group of 7 young adults were interviewed for the purpose of the study. Participants were asked to explain a set of abstract and concrete concepts while their speech and gestures were recorded. If gesture indeed plays a role in reducing the mental load by externalizing thought, more gestures should be produced for concepts that are more difficult to describe (in this case: abstract, intangible concepts). Qualitative data analysis, as well as simple statistical analyses of gesture type, number and gesture per word rates show that abstract concepts do not generate more gestures, but do prompt blind and visually impaired speakers to use simulation gestures. These gestures constitute reenactments of situations associated with a given concept by the respondent. They are also thought to confirm the embodied cognition hypothesis (Hostetter and Alibali 2008). A number of examples demonstrates that abstract concepts in blind children are strongly grounded in their experience of real-world situations. Findings suggest that gesture is not merely a tool for communication, but a way of extending the capabilities of the mind.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Jelec, A., & Jaworska, D. (2014). Thoughts on the table: Gesture as a tool for thinking in blind and visually impaired children. Yearbook of the Poznań Linguistic Meeting, 1(1), 73-88. https://doi.org/10.1515/yplm-2015-0004
Section
Articles

References

  1. Alibali, M.W. and S. Goldin-Meadow. 1993. “Gesture-speech mismatch and mechanisms of learning: What the hands reveal about a child’s state of mind”. Cognitive Psychology 25. 468–468.
  2. Alibali, M.W., L.M. Flevares and S. Goldin-Meadow. 1997. “Assessing knowledge conveyed in gesture: Do teachers have the upper hand?” Journal of Educational Psychology 89. 183–193.
  3. Blass, T., N. Friedman and I. Steingart. 1974. “Body movement and verbal encoding in the congenitally blind”. Perceptual and Motor Skills 39. 279–293.
  4. Brugman, H. and A. Russel. 2004. “Annotating multi-media/multi-modal resources with ELAN”. LREC.
  5. Cartmill, E.A., S. Beilock and S. Goldin-Meadow. 2012. “A word in the hand: action, gesture and mental representation in humans and non-human primates”. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 367. 129–143.
  6. Casasanto, D. 2008. Conceptual affiliates of metaphorical gestures. Brighton.
  7. Dunlea, A. 1989. Vision and the emergence of meaning: Blind and sighted children's early language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  8. Fazzi, E., J. Lanners, S. Danova, O. Ferrarri-Ginevra, C. Gheza, A. Luparia, U. Balottin and G. Lanzi. 1999. “Stereotyped behaviours in blind children”. Brain and Development 21. 522–528.
  9. Goldin-Meadow, S. 2005. “The two faces of gesture: Language and thought”. Gesture 5. 1–2.
  10. Goldin-Meadow, S. 2014. “How gesture works to change our minds”. Trends in Neuroscience and Education.
  11. Goldin-Meadow, S. and S.L. Beilock. 2010. “Action’s influence on thought: The case of gesture”. Perspectives on Psychological Science 5. 664–674.
  12. Hostetter, A.B. and M.W. Alibali. 2008. “Visible embodiment: Gestures as simulated action”. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 15. 495–514.
  13. Iverson, J.M. and S. Goldin-Meadow. 1997. “What’s communication got to do with it? Gesture in children blind from birth”. Developmental Psychology 33. 453.
  14. Iverson, J.M. and S. Goldin-Meadow. 2001. “The resilience of gesture in talk: gesture in blind speakers and listeners”. Developmental Science 4. 416–422.
  15. Iverson, J.M., H.L. Tencer and S. Goldin-Meadow. 1998. “Prelinguistic communication in congenitally blind infants”. Infant Behavior and Development 21. 480.
  16. Jaworska-Biskup, K. 2011. “The world without sight. A comparative study of concept understanding in Polish congenitally totally blind and sighted children”. Psychology of Language and Communication 15. 28–47.
  17. Jelec, A. and D. Jaworska. 2011. “Mind: meet network. Emergence of features in conceptual metaphor”. In: Solovyev, V. and V. Polyakov (eds.), Text Pro-cessing and Cognitive Technologies. The XIII-th International Conference Cognitive Modeling in Linguistics. Proceedings. Kazan: KSU. 34–36.
  18. Kendon, A. 1972. “Some relationships between body motion and speech”. Studies in Dyadic Communication 7. 177.
  19. Kendon, A. 1994. “Do gestures communicate? A review”. Research on Language and Social Interaction 27. 175–200.
  20. Kendon, A. 2004. Gesture: Visible action as utterance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  21. Kirsh, D. and P. Maglio. 1994. “On distinguishing epistemic from pragmatic action”. Cognitive Science 18. 513–549.
  22. Kita, S. 2000. “How representational gestures help speaking”. In: McNeill, D. (ed.), Language and gesture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 162–185.
  23. Krauss, R.M., R.A. Dushay, Y. Chen and F. Rauscher. 1995. „The communicative value of conversational hand gesture”. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 31. 533–552.
  24. Krauss, R.M., Y. Chen and P. Chawla. 1996. “Nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication: What do conversational hand gestures tell us?” In: Zanna, M.P. (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 389–450.
  25. Majewski, T. 1983. Psychologia niewidomych i niedowidzących [The psychology of blind and visually impaired people]. Warszawa: PWN.
  26. McNeill, D. 1992. Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  27. McNeill, D. 2005. Gesture and thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  28. Robbins, P. and M. Aydede. 2009. “A short primer on situated cognition”. In: Aydede, M. and P. Robbins (eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press. 3–10.
  29. Sloetjes, H. and P. Wittenburg. 2008. “Annotation by category: ELAN and ISO DCR”. LREC.
  30. Smith, M.A., M. Chethik and E. Adelson. 1969. “Differential assessments of ‘blindisms’”. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 39. 807–817.
  31. Wilson, R.A. and L. Foglia. 2011. Embodied cognition. Stanford, CA: The Metaphysics Research Lab Center for the Study of Language and Information.
  32. Wittenburg, P., H. Brugman, A. Russel, A. Klassmann and H. Sloetjes. 2006. “Elan: a professional framework for multimodality research”. LREC.