Grasping Virtual Objects Benefits Lower Aptitude Learners’ Acquisition of Foreign Language Vocabulary

Manuela Macedonia, Brian Mathias, Astrid Lehner, Susanne Maria Reiterer, Claudia Repetto

Veröffentlichungen: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelPeer Reviewed


Theories of embodied cognition describe language acquisition and representation as dependent on sensorimotor experiences that are collected during learning. Whereas native language words are typically acquired through sensorimotor experiences, foreign language (L2) words are often learned by reading, listening or repeating bilingual word lists. Recently, grasping referent objects has been demonstrated to serve as a useful sensorimotor strategy for L2 vocabulary learning. The effects of grasping virtual objects, however, remain unknown. In a virtual reality cave, we trained adult participants (N = 46) having low language aptitude and high language aptitude on novel L2 words under three conditions. In an audiovisual (baseline) condition, participants were presented with written and spoken L2 words. In an audiovisual observation condition, participants additionally saw virtual visual objects that corresponded to the meanings of L2 words. In an audiovisual, an observation, and a grasping condition, participants were asked to grasp the virtual objects. Participants’ word learning was assessed in free and cued recall tests administered immediately after training. Relative to baseline learning, simply viewing virtual objects during learning benefitted both groups. As expected, grasping virtual objects was found to benefit vocabulary retention in low language aptitude learners. Interestingly, this benefit was not observed in high language aptitude learners. Language learning aptitude scores correlated with vocabulary learning outcomes in both audiovisual learning conditions, but not in the sensorimotor condition, suggesting that grasping altered the typical relationship between aptitude and language learning performance. The findings are interpreted in terms of differences in the extent to which procedural and declarative memory systems are accessed in low language aptitude and high language aptitude learners during sensorimotor-based vocabulary learning. Additionally, the results suggest that simulated interactions without tangible feedback can benefit learning. This outcome expands our understanding of how physical experience extends cognition and paves the way for the application of sensorimotor enrichment strategies to virtual environments.
FachzeitschriftEducational Psychology Review
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 8 Dez. 2023

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