The Relative Comprehension of Communicative Gesture Types

By Lewis J. Baker and Lawrence Lewis.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Researchers have examined the role of gesture in signal presentation, but few have investigated how gestures differ in their communicative capacity. In this study, we investigated the relative comprehension of metamorphic, deictic, beat, and iconic gestures (McNeill, 1985). A sample of natural communicative gestures was acquired from social observation and then filmed in a laboratory setting in five to eight second clips. Sixty-five undergraduate student participants viewed each gesture without sound and determined within a three second period if a transcript matched or did not match the presented gesture. Each participant then completed tests of verbal fluency, mental rotation and symbol matching. Results indicated an above-chance identification of overall gesture type. Iconic gestures were correctly identified significantly more often than other gesture types. Results lead us to support McNeill’s theory that gestures supplement spoken language, but we discuss interpretations of iconic gestures as independent communicators.

Keywords: Cognitive Psychology, Nonverbal Communication, Gesture, Language

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 10, pp.7-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 888.888KB).

Lewis J. Baker

Research Assistant, Psychological Sciences, Loyola University New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, USA

Mr. Baker is a graduate and former research assistant of Loyola University New Orleans. His research broadly examines folk psychology and the detection of intentional action. He is also interested in the cognitive science of film and religion. Mr. Baker is currently a research assistant and PhD student at Vanderbilt University, USA.

Dr. Lawrence Lewis

Associate Professor, Psychological Sciences, Loyola University New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, USA

Dr. Lewis teaches courses in cognition, human development, and the relationship between mind, brain, and culture. His research is focused on cognitive development and the psychology of spirituality. His current interest include age-related changes in language learning ability, the relationship between personality traits and behaviors and attitudes centered around a person’s spiritual life, and the effects of spiritual background on an individual’s perception and cognitive abilities. Dr. Lewis is the past recipient of the Loyola University College of Humanities and Natural Sciences Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Advising Awards. He is an active member of the Louisiana Academy of Sciences, Executive Director of the Jesuit Psychological Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.


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