Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Gestures fulfill a big role in language

Date:
May 8, 2012
Source:
Acoustical Society of America (ASA)
Summary:
People of all ages and cultures gesture while speaking, some much more noticeably than others. But is gesturing uniquely tied to speech, or is it, rather, processed by the brain like any other manual action? Scientists have discovered that actual actions on objects, such as physically stirring a spoon in a cup, have less of an impact on the brain’s understanding of speech than simply gesturing as if stirring a spoon in a cup.

Scientists have discovered that actual actions on objects, such as physically stirring a spoon in a cup, have less of an impact on the brain’s understanding of speech than simply gesturing as if stirring a spoon in a cup.
Credit: Image courtesy of Acoustical Society of America (ASA)

People of all ages and cultures gesture while speaking, some much more noticeably than others. But is gesturing uniquely tied to speech, or is it, rather, processed by the brain like any other manual action?

A U.S.-Netherlands research collaboration delving into this tie discovered that actual actions on objects, such as physically stirring a spoon in a cup, have less of an impact on the brain's understanding of speech than simply gesturing as if stirring a spoon in a cup. This is surprising because there is less visual information contained in gestures than in actual actions on objects. In short: Less may actually be more when it comes to gestures and actions in terms of understanding language.

Spencer Kelly, associate professor of Psychology, director of the Neuroscience program, and co-director of the Center for Language and Brain at Colgate University, and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics will present their research at the Acoustics 2012 meeting in Hong Kong, May 13-18, a joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), Acoustical Society of China, Western Pacific Acoustics Conference, and the Hong Kong Institute of Acoustics.

Among their key findings is that gestures -- more than actions -- appear to make people pay attention to the acoustics of speech. When we see a gesture, our auditory system expects to also hear speech. But this is not what the researchers found in the case of manual actions on objects.

Just think of all the actions you've seen today that occurred in the absence of speech. "This special relationship is interesting because many scientists have argued that spoken language evolved from a gestural communication system -- using the entire body -- in our evolutionary past," points out Kelly. "Our results provide a glimpse into this past relationship by showing that gestures still have a tight and perhaps special coupling with speech in present-day communication. In this way, gestures are not merely add-ons to language -- they may actually be a fundamental part of it."

A better understanding of the role hand gestures play in how people understand language could lead to new audio and visual instruction techniques to help people overcome major challenges with language delays and disorders or learning a second language.

What's next for the researchers? "We're interested in how other types of visual inputs, such as eye gaze, mouth movements, and facial expressions, combine with hand gestures to impact speech processing. This will allow us to develop even more natural and effective ways to help people understand and learn language," says Kelly.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Acoustical Society of America (ASA). "Gestures fulfill a big role in language." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508152000.htm>.
Acoustical Society of America (ASA). (2012, May 8). Gestures fulfill a big role in language. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508152000.htm
Acoustical Society of America (ASA). "Gestures fulfill a big role in language." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120508152000.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins