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Emotion and gesture effects on narrative comprehension: do gestures moderate emotion enhanced memory?

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posted on 2022-03-29, 01:49 authored by Daniel Guilbert
Research in the field of emotion suggests that emotionally negative stories are more memorable than positive or neutral stories (e.g., Van Bergen, Wall, & Salmon, 2015). Similarly, research has found that people remember stories more effectively when the narrator provides relevant hand gestures to accompany story content (Hostetter, 2011). Given the relative difficulty associated with remembering positive or neutral stories, this study explores whether gestures can be used to compensate for this recall deficit, by testing gesture effects for negative, neutral,and positive stories. In Experiment 1, fifty children aged 4-6 years viewed a video containing two negative, two positive, and two neutral stories. Gesture condition was manipulated between groups, such that participants watched a video in which the narrator provided: (i) gestures reflecting the main emotion of each story; (ii) gestures reflecting the main event of each story; or (iii) no gestures. Children recalled negative emotions more effectively than positive or neutral emotions. Compared to children who viewed no gestures, children who viewed emotion gestures or event gestures recalled more narrative content. Crucially, the memorial benefits of gesture remained consistent across emotional valence conditions. To examine the developmental aspects of these phenomena, seventy-four adults were tested in Experiment 2, using the same stimuli as Experiment 1. Adults recalled events more effectively from negative stories rather than positive or neutral stories. Compared to adults who viewed no gestures, those who viewed emotion gestures did not recall more narrative content, while those who viewed event gestures recalled significantly less narrative content. Again, these findings were consistent across emotional valence conditions. Overall, the results of this study suggest that the extent to which viewing relevant gestures can facilitate narrative comprehension depends less on the emotional valence of the narratives, and more on the difficulty of the task, and the age and cognitive ability of viewers. This research has important implications when deciding how and when to use gestures to best facilitate listeners’ narrative comprehension.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Experiment 1 -- Experiment 2 -- General discussion -- References -- Appendix.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 61-69

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Naomi Sweller

Additional Supervisor 1

Penny Van Bergen


Copyright Daniel Guilbert 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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