Do Iconic Hand Gestures Really Contribute to the Communication of Semantic Information in a Face-to-Face Context?

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Previous research has shown that iconic gestures are effective at communicating semantic information, particularly about the size and relative position of objects. However, the conclusions of these experiments have been somewhat limited by the fact that the methodology has typically involved presenting gesture-speech samples on video rather than in an actual face-to-face context. Because these different viewing conditions can impact on addressees' behavior and perception, and therefore potentially impact on the amount of information they receive from gestures, the present study compares the communicative effectiveness of iconic gestures when viewed in a face-to-face context compared to when viewed on video. The results are quite striking in that gestures seemed at least as effective, and in some cases even more effective at communicating position and size information when they occurred in the face-to-face condition compared to video.

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