Judith Holler


  • Ter Bekke, M., Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2020). The predictive potential of hand gestures during conversation: An investigation of the timing of gestures in relation to speech. PsyArXiv Preprints. doi:10.31234/osf.io/b5zq7.


    In face-to-face conversation, recipients might use the bodily movements of the speaker (e.g. gestures) to facilitate language processing. It has been suggested that one way through which this facilitation may happen is prediction. However, for this to be possible, gestures would need to precede speech, and it is unclear whether this is true during natural conversation. In a corpus of Dutch conversations, we annotated hand gestures that represent semantic information and occurred during questions, and the word(s) which corresponded most closely to the gesturally depicted meaning. Thus, we tested whether representational gestures temporally precede their lexical affiliates. Further, to see whether preceding gestures may indeed facilitate language processing, we asked whether the gesture-speech asynchrony predicts the response time to the question the gesture is part of. Gestures and their strokes (most meaningful movement component) indeed preceded the corresponding lexical information, thus demonstrating their predictive potential. However, while questions with gestures got faster responses than questions without, there was no evidence that questions with larger gesture-speech asynchronies get faster responses. These results suggest that gestures indeed have the potential to facilitate predictive language processing, but further analyses on larger datasets are needed to test for links between asynchrony and processing advantages.
  • Trujillo, J. P., Ozyurek, A., Holler, J., & Drijvers, L. (2020). Evidence for a Multimodal Lombard Effect: Speakers modulate not only speech but also gesture to overcome noise. PsyArXiv Preprints. doi:10.31234/osf.io/3jdmq.


    In everyday conversation, we are often challenged with communicating in non-ideal settings, such as in noise. Increased speech intensity and larger mouth movements are used to overcome noise in constrained settings (the Lombard effect). How we adapt to noise in face-to-face interaction, the natural environment of human language use, where manual gestures are ubiquitous, is currently unknown. We asked Dutch adults to wear headphones with varying levels of multi-talker babble while attempting to communicate action verbs to one another. Using quantitative motion capture and acoustic analyses, we found that 1) noise is associated with increased speech intensity and enhanced gesture kinematics, and 2) acoustic modulation of the speech signal only occurs when gestures are not present, while gesture kinematic modulation occurs regardless of co-occurring speech. Thus, in face-to-face encounters the Lombard effect is not constrained to speech but is a multimodal phenomenon where gestures carry most of the communicative burden.

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