Eye See What You’re Saying: Beat Gesture Facilitates Online Resolution of Contrastive Referring Expressions in Spoken Discourse

AbstractThis study investigated how beat gesture and contrastive pitch accenting affect online contrastive reference resolution during spoken discourse comprehension. Evidence from gaze fixations indicated that beat gesture encouraged fixations to target referents of contrastive referring expressions and that contrastive accenting encouraged fixations to competitor referents of non-contrastive referring expressions. Notably, beat gesture and contrastive accenting acted independently, indicating that their effects are additive rather than interactive. Moreover, neither beat gesture nor contrastive accenting affected an observed tendency to anticipate contrastive referring expressions. Together, these results provide the first evidence that beat gesture, like contrastive accenting, is interpreted as a cue to contrast during online reference resolution in spoken discourse comprehension.

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