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It's on the tip of my fingers: Co-speech gestures during lexical retrieval in different social contexts

Holler, J., Turner, K., & Varcianna, T. (2013). It's on the tip of my fingers: Co-speech gestures during lexical retrieval in different social contexts. Language and Cognitive Processes, 28(10), 1509-1518. doi:10.1080/01690965.2012.698289.
The Lexical Retrieval Hypothesis proposes that gestures function at the level of speech production, aiding in the retrieval of lexical items from the mental lexicon. However, empirical evidence for this account is mixed, and some critics argue that a more likely function of gestures during lexical retrieval is a communicative one. The present study was designed to test these predictions against each other by keeping lexical retrieval difficulty constant while varying social context. Participants' gestures were analysed during tip of the tongue experiences when communicating with a partner face-to-face (FTF), while being separated by a screen, or on their own by speaking into a voice recorder. The results show that participants in the FTF context produced significantly more representational gestures than participants in the solitary condition. This suggests that, even in the specific context of lexical retrieval difficulties, representational gestures appear to play predominantly a communicative role.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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