Understanding the literacy performance of Chinese children from an embodied cognition approach

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


The present study investigated relationships between embodied cognition and children’s literacy performance from on-line (i.e., concurrent external task-related information) and off-line (i.e., internalized embodied experience) perspectives. In total, 144 second-grade and 150 fourth-grade Chinese students were recruited to complete three studies.
Study 1 explored specific contributions of visual, motor, and haptic systems of handwriting to Chinese character learning by assigning each child to one of four strategies: reading, visual processing, air writing, or handwriting. Both air writing and handwriting elicited a larger training effect than reading or visual processing; however, there was no difference between the air writing and handwriting groups. The fourth-graders exhibited greater improvement than the second-graders; however, there was no age difference in the facilitative effects of each group.
Study 2 studied the effects of visual and motor modalities in manipulations of reading comprehension, which were investigated by assigning each child to rereading, observing-performed or participant-performed manipulations and comparing their results. There were two training periods: acute enhancement and strategy maintenance. Only the children in the observing-performed manipulation were asked to change their strategy to the participant-performed manipulation in the second period; the other children were asked to keep the strategy to which they were assigned in the first period. For both periods, the facilitative effects of the manipulations were evident only in the fourth-graders. However, the participant-performed manipulation led to greater enhancement than the observing-performed manipulation in the first period; however, there was no difference between these two groups in the second period.
Study 3 explored off-line embodied cognition and its relationship to children’s Chinese character reading and reading comprehension. In addition to the children, 28 adults were asked to complete a sentence-picture verification task (SVT) and a body-object interaction (BOI) task. In the SVT, the participants were asked to judge whether the object in the picture was mentioned in the preceding sentence. The experiment’s pictures were either a perceptual match or mismatch with the objects depicted in the paired sentences. In the BOI task, the participants were asked to judge whether a word made sense. The experimental words were rated by the participants in terms of how easily the participants could physically interact with each word’s referent. A facilitating role of embodied cognition in language comprehension was observed in both tasks for the children and the adults. Moreover, regarding the perceptual mismatch effect, the relationships were positive in the secondgraders whereas the relationships were negative in the fourth-graders. In addition, a positive correlation between the BOI effect and reading comprehension was observed.
The current findings showed 1) the facilitating roles of on-line and off-line embodied cognition in reading acquisition and comprehension; 2) the specific contributions of sensory-motor modalities to literacy performance; 3) the benefits to the younger children of on-line embodied cognition in a relatively easy task (i.e., Chinese character learning) whereas the older children gained advantages from on-line embodied cognition in both tasks; 4) the different associations between off-line embodied cognition and literacy performance with different embodied indicators; and 5) the development of the link between off-line embodied cognition and literacy performance had a tendency from positive to negative. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • LIU, Duo 劉鐸, Supervisor
  • CHUNG, Kevin Kien Hoa 鍾杰華, Supervisor
  • WANG, Li-Chih, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Body-objective interaction
  • Manipulation
  • Mental model
  • Perceptual mismatch effect
  • Sensory-motor
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2019.


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