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I see how you feel: Recipients obtain additional information from speakers’ gestures about pain

Rowbotham, S. J., Holler, J., Wearden, A., & Lloyd, D. M. (2016). I see how you feel: Recipients obtain additional information from speakers’ gestures about pain. Patient Education and Counseling, 99(8), 1333-1342. doi:10.1016/j.pec.2016.03.007.
Objective Despite the need for effective pain communication, pain is difficult to verbalise. Co-speech gestures frequently add information about pain that is not contained in the accompanying speech. We explored whether recipients can obtain additional information from gestures about the pain that is being described. Methods Participants (n = 135) viewed clips of pain descriptions under one of four conditions: 1) Speech Only; 2) Speech and Gesture; 3) Speech, Gesture and Face; and 4) Speech, Gesture and Face plus Instruction (short presentation explaining the pain information that gestures can depict). Participants provided free-text descriptions of the pain that had been described. Responses were scored for the amount of information obtained from the original clips. Findings Participants in the Instruction condition obtained the most information, while those in the Speech Only condition obtained the least (all comparisons p<.001). Conclusions Gestures produced during pain descriptions provide additional information about pain that recipients are able to pick up without detriment to their uptake of spoken information. Practice implications Healthcare professionals may benefit from instruction in gestures to enhance uptake of information about patients’ pain experiences.
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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.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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