Getting to the Point: The Influence of Communicative Intent on the Kinematics of Pointing Gestures


In everyday communication, people not only use speech but also hand gestures to convey information. One intriguing question in gesture research has been why gestures take the specific form they do. Previous research has identified the speaker-gesturer’s communicative intent as one factor shaping the form of iconic gestures. Here we investigate whether communicative intent also shapes the form of pointing gestures. In an experimental setting, twenty-four participants produced pointing gestures identifying a referent for an addressee. The communicative intent of the speaker-gesturer was manipulated by varying the informativeness of the pointing gesture. A second independent variable was the presence or absence of concurrent speech. As a function of their communicative intent and irrespective of the presence of speech, participants varied the durations of the stroke and the post-stroke hold-phase of their gesture. These findings add to our understanding of how the communicative context influences the form that a gesture takes.

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