Posted on Thursday 18th July 2013
Dr Sotaro Kita and his colleagues' paper on individual differences in production of speech-accompanying gestures has been accepted by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
The study investigated the psychological profile of people who produce gestures more frequently and more saliently than others. It was found that (1) people who are poor at remembering or mentally transforming visual and spatial images and (2) people who are poor at selecting concepts to be verbalised in each utterance produced more gestures that depict or indicate visuo-spatial information. This suggests that such gestures may help people process visuo-spatial information and conceptualisation for speaking, and people who are not good at these processes often seek help from gestures.
It was also found that (3) people who tend to think a lot about other people's thoughts and feelings (who are more "empathetic") produced more gestures that regulate interaction with the listener and also produced all types of gestures more saliently (i.e., bigger). This suggests that gestures are often produced in order to facilitate communication.
This study was supported by a research grant of £229,837 from ESRC. The co-authors all have former affiliation with the School (Dr. Mingyuan Chu - a PhD student and postdoctoral researcher, Prof. Antje Meyer - an academic staff member and Lucy Foulkes - an RA and a BSc student).