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Co-thought and Co-speech Gestures Are Generated by the Same Action Generation Process

Chu, M., & Kita, S. (2016). Co-thought and Co-speech Gestures Are Generated by the Same Action Generation Process. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 42(2), 257-270. doi:10.1037/xlm0000168.
People spontaneously gesture when they speak (co-speech gestures) and when they solve problems silently (co-thought gestures). In this study, we first explored the relationship between these 2 types of gestures and found that individuals who produced co-thought gestures more frequently also produced co-speech gestures more frequently (Experiments 1 and 2). This suggests that the 2 types of gestures are generated from the same process. We then investigated whether both types of gestures can be generated from the representational use of the action generation process that also generates purposeful actions that have a direct physical impact on the world, such as manipulating an object or locomotion (the action generation hypothesis). To this end, we examined the effect of object affordances on the production of both types of gestures (Experiments 3 and 4). We found that individuals produced co-thought and co-speech gestures more often when the stimulus objects afforded action (objects with a smooth surface) than when they did not (objects with a spiky surface). These results support the action generation hypothesis for representational gestures. However, our findings are incompatible with the hypothesis that co-speech representational gestures are solely generated from the speech production process (the speech production hypothesis).
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