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Journal Article

Imitation of a pedagogical agent’s gestures enhances memory for words in second language


Macedonia,  Manuela
Department for Information Systems, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria;
Max Planck Research Group Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Macedonia, M., Bergmann, K., & Roithmayr, F. (2014). Imitation of a pedagogical agent’s gestures enhances memory for words in second language. Science Journal of Education, 2(5), 162-169. doi:10.11648/j.sjedu.20140205.15.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-563A-8
Pedagogical agents (PAs) are virtual characters in computer-based learning environments. PAs can train humans in various domains. Here, a PA cues subjects to learn vocabulary items through enactment, i.e., to perform an illustrative gesture while learning a word. It is well known that enactment impacts memory. Also, imitation is a natural mechanism driving learning. Combining both enactment and imitation could improve memory even more. In a within-subjects study, 44 school children learned 45 vocabulary items according to three conditions: an audio-visual baseline, an observation condition (participants watched the PA during enactment) and an imitation condition (participants imitated the PA’s gestures). We documented learning progress by cued recall tests. Over four days, we found that, compared to the baseline and to mere observation, imitation of enactment significantly enhanced memory for words in the foreign language.