Beat gestures facilitate speech production

Ché LuceroUniversity of Chicago
Holly ZaharchukUniversity of Chicago
Daniel CasasantoUniversity of Chicago

Abstract

Does gesturing help speakers find the right words? According to several theories of speech-gesture relationships, iconic gestures should facilitate speech production, but beat gestures should not. Here we tested the effects of gesturing on word production in two experiments. Participants produced low-frequency words from their definitions while instructed to perform beat gestures, iconic gestures, or while not given any instructions about gesturing (baseline condition). Compared to baseline, participants were faster to produce the target words while performing beat gestures, bimanually or with their left hand alone, but they were slower to produce the target words when instructed to perform iconic gestures. Results provide the first evidence that beat gestures can help speakers produce words. This benefit may arise from the fact that gestures are motor actions, rather than from any special properties of gestures, per se.

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