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Seminar: 11/18 - Susan Goldin-Meadow, University of Chicago

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  5101 Tolman Hall

How our hands help us think

When people talk, they gesture. We now know that these gestures are associated with learning. They can index moments of cognitive instability and reflect thoughts not yet found in speech. What I hope to do in this talk is raise the possibility that gesture might do more than just reflect learning -- it might be involved in the learning process itself. I consider two non-mutually exclusive possibilities. First, gesture could play a role in the learning process by displaying, for all to see, the learner's newest, and perhaps undigested, thoughts. Parents, teachers, and peers would then have the opportunity to react to those unspoken thoughts and provide the learner with the input necessary for future steps. Second, gesture could play a role in the learning process more directly by providing another representational format, one that would allow the learner to explore, perhaps with less effort, ideas that may be difficult to think through in a verbal format. Thus gesture has the potential to contribute to cognitive change, directly by influencing the learner and indirectly by influencing the learning environment.