Speaking but not gesturing predicts motion event memory across and within languages

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In everyday life, people see, describe and remember motion events. How a motion event (e.g. a woman running to a tree) is described with speech and co-speech gesture varies within and across languages. While Dutch speakers typically describe the manner (e.g. running) and the path (e.g. to the tree), Turkish speakers regularly omit the manner. In this study, we tested whether which motion event information is encoded in speech and gesture predicts which information is remembered. Speakers of Dutch (n = 19) and Turkish (n = 22) watched and described motion events. With a surprise recognition memory task, memory for manner and path components of these events was measured. We found a positive relation between speech and memory: participants were more accurate at detecting changes to the path of an event if they had described the path during encoding. The relation between speaking about path and remembering path differed depending on native language: for Dutch speakers encoding path in speech was related to improved path memory, but for Turkish speakers no such relation existed. For both languages, co-speech gesture did not predict memory. These findings have implications for our understanding of the relations between speech, gesture, native language and memory.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen