The role of gesture as simulated action in reinterpretation of mental imagery
In two experiments, we examined the role of gesture in reinterpreting a mental image. In Experiment 1, we found that participants gestured more about a figure they had learned through manual exploration than about a figure they had learned through vision. This supports claims that gestures emerge from the activation of perception-relevant actions during mental imagery. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether such gestures have a causal role in affecting the quality of mental imagery. Participants were randomly assigned to gesture, not gesture, or engage in a manual interference task as they attempted to reinterpret a figure they had learned through manual exploration. We found that manual interference significantly impaired participants' success on the task. Taken together, these results suggest that gestures reflect mental imaginings of interactions with a mental image and that these imaginings are critically important for mental manipulation and reinterpretation of that image. However, our results suggest that enacting the imagined movements in gesture is not critically important on this particular task.