Mentor: Robert Wozniak
When human beings communicate, they do so not only through speech but also through gestures involving the hands. Hand gestures appear not only in the conversations of adults, but also in those of children. Previous research in our laboratory has demonstrated that the degree to which adults produce gesture varies widely among individuals and that these individual differences are remarkably stable across tasks. While research on children’s gestures has looked at the influence of gesture on how children learn and develop language skills, little research to date has examined individual differences in the gestures of children. My research will focus on how children ages three to five years of age vary in their gestures when describing objects and events. Participants will be asked to engage in three brief activities. The first activity will involve watching a video of a magic show; the second will involve watching a video of a familiar television show character; and the third will involve listening to a short story. After each activity, participants will be asked to recount what they saw or heard while their descriptions (speech and gesture) are video recorded for later coding. Data analysis will focus on whether children gesture when they formulate their descriptions, what kinds of gestures they use, how wide the individual differences in gesturing are and on the degree to which these individual differences are stable across activities, and on whether consistent relationships are observed between the type and frequency of gesture and concomitant speech.