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Information 2011, 2(4), 579-593;

Raising the Ante of Communication: Evidence for Enhanced Gesture Use in High Stakes Situations

Department of Psychology, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY 13346, USA
Department of Psychology, Manchester University Manchester M13 9PL, UK
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Wundtlaan 1, Nijmegen 6525 XD, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 19 August 2011 / Revised: 9 September 2011 / Accepted: 27 September 2011 / Published: 10 October 2011
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognition and Communication)
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Theorists of language have argued that co-speech hand gestures are an intentional part of social communication. The present study provides evidence for these claims by showing that speakers adjust their gesture use according to their perceived relevance to the audience. Participants were asked to read about items that were and were not useful in a wilderness survival scenario, under the pretense that they would then explain (on camera) what they learned to one of two different audiences. For one audience (a group of college students in a dormitory orientation activity), the stakes of successful communication were low; for the other audience (a group of students preparing for a rugged camping trip in the mountains), the stakes were high. In their explanations to the camera, participants in the high stakes condition produced three times as many representational gestures, and spent three times as much time gesturing, than participants in the low stakes condition. This study extends previous research by showing that the anticipated consequences of one’s communication—namely, the degree to which information may be useful to an intended recipient—influences speakers’ use of gesture. View Full-Text
Keywords: gesture; speech; language; pragmatics; social; communication; nonverbal gesture; speech; language; pragmatics; social; communication; nonverbal
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Kelly, S.; Byrne, K.; Holler, J. Raising the Ante of Communication: Evidence for Enhanced Gesture Use in High Stakes Situations. Information 2011, 2, 579-593.

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