Judith Holler

Publications

Displaying 1 - 91 of 91
  • Ghaleb, E., Burenko, I., Rasenberg, M., Pouw, W., Uhrig, P., Holler, J., Toni, I., Ozyurek, A., & Fernandez, R. (in press). Cospeech gesture detection through multi-phase sequence labeling. In IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV).
  • Ter Bekke, M., Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2024). Hand gestures have predictive potential during conversation: An investigation of the timing of gestures in relation to speech. Cognitive Science, 48(1): e13407. doi:10.1111/cogs.13407.

    Abstract

    During face-to-face conversation, transitions between speaker turns are incredibly fast. These fast turn exchanges seem to involve next speakers predicting upcoming semantic information, such that next turn planning can begin before a current turn is complete. Given that face-to-face conversation also involves the use of communicative bodily signals, an important question is how bodily signals such as co-speech hand gestures play into these processes of prediction and fast responding. In this corpus study, we found that hand gestures that depict or refer to semantic information started before the corresponding information in speech, which held both for the onset of the gesture as a whole, as well as the onset of the stroke (the most meaningful part of the gesture). This early timing potentially allows listeners to use the gestural information to predict the corresponding semantic information to be conveyed in speech. Moreover, we provided further evidence that questions with gestures got faster responses than questions without gestures. However, we found no evidence for the idea that how much a gesture precedes its lexical affiliate (i.e., its predictive potential) relates to how fast responses were given. The findings presented here highlight the importance of the temporal relation between speech and gesture and help to illuminate the potential mechanisms underpinning multimodal language processing during face-to-face conversation.
  • Ter Bekke, M., Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2024). Gestures speed up responses to questions. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/23273798.2024.2314021.

    Abstract

    Most language use occurs in face-to-face conversation, which involves rapid turn-taking. Seeing communicative bodily signals in addition to hearing speech may facilitate such fast responding. We tested whether this holds for co-speech hand gestures by investigating whether these gestures speed up button press responses to questions. Sixty native speakers of Dutch viewed videos in which an actress asked yes/no-questions, either with or without a corresponding iconic hand gesture. Participants answered the questions as quickly and accurately as possible via button press. Gestures did not impact response accuracy, but crucially, gestures sped up responses, suggesting that response planning may be finished earlier when gestures are seen. How much gestures sped up responses was not related to their timing in the question or their timing with respect to the corresponding information in speech. Overall, these results are in line with the idea that multimodality may facilitate fast responding during face-to-face conversation.
  • Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2024). Information distribution patterns in naturalistic dialogue differ across languages. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13423-024-02452-0.

    Abstract

    The natural ecology of language is conversation, with individuals taking turns speaking to communicate in a back-and-forth fashion. Language in this context involves strings of words that a listener must process while simultaneously planning their own next utterance. It would thus be highly advantageous if language users distributed information within an utterance in a way that may facilitate this processing–planning dynamic. While some studies have investigated how information is distributed at the level of single words or clauses, or in written language, little is known about how information is distributed within spoken utterances produced during naturalistic conversation. It also is not known how information distribution patterns of spoken utterances may differ across languages. We used a set of matched corpora (CallHome) containing 898 telephone conversations conducted in six different languages (Arabic, English, German, Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish), analyzing more than 58,000 utterances, to assess whether there is evidence of distinct patterns of information distributions at the utterance level, and whether these patterns are similar or differed across the languages. We found that English, Spanish, and Mandarin typically show a back-loaded distribution, with higher information (i.e., surprisal) in the last half of utterances compared with the first half, while Arabic, German, and Japanese showed front-loaded distributions, with higher information in the first half compared with the last half. Additional analyses suggest that these patterns may be related to word order and rate of noun and verb usage. We additionally found that back-loaded languages have longer turn transition times (i.e.,time between speaker turns)

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  • Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2024). Conversational facial signals combine into compositional meanings that change the interpretation of speaker intentions. Scientific Reports, 14: 2286. doi:10.1038/s41598-024-52589-0.

    Abstract

    Human language is extremely versatile, combining a limited set of signals in an unlimited number of ways. However, it is unknown whether conversational visual signals feed into the composite utterances with which speakers communicate their intentions. We assessed whether different combinations of visual signals lead to different intent interpretations of the same spoken utterance. Participants viewed a virtual avatar uttering spoken questions while producing single visual signals (i.e., head turn, head tilt, eyebrow raise) or combinations of these signals. After each video, participants classified the communicative intention behind the question. We found that composite utterances combining several visual signals conveyed different meaning compared to utterances accompanied by the single visual signals. However, responses to combinations of signals were more similar to the responses to related, rather than unrelated, individual signals, indicating a consistent influence of the individual visual signals on the whole. This study therefore provides first evidence for compositional, non-additive (i.e., Gestalt-like) perception of multimodal language.

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    41598_2024_52589_MOESM1_ESM.docx
  • Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2023). The multimodal facilitation effect in human communication. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 30(2), 792-801. doi:10.3758/s13423-022-02178-x.

    Abstract

    During face-to-face communication, recipients need to rapidly integrate a plethora of auditory and visual signals. This integration of signals from many different bodily articulators, all offset in time, with the information in the speech stream may either tax the cognitive system, thus slowing down language processing, or may result in multimodal facilitation. Using the classical shadowing paradigm, participants shadowed speech from face-to-face, naturalistic dyadic conversations in an audiovisual context, an audiovisual context without visual speech (e.g., lips), and an audio-only context. Our results provide evidence of a multimodal facilitation effect in human communication: participants were faster in shadowing words when seeing multimodal messages compared with when hearing only audio. Also, the more visual context was present, the fewer shadowing errors were made, and the earlier in time participants shadowed predicted lexical items. We propose that the multimodal facilitation effect may contribute to the ease of fast face-to-face conversational interaction.
  • Hamilton, A., & Holler, J. (Eds.). (2023). Face2face: Advancing the science of social interaction [Special Issue]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences. Retrieved from https://royalsocietypublishing.org/toc/rstb/2023/378/1875.

    Abstract

    Face to face interaction is fundamental to human sociality but is very complex to study in a scientific fashion. This theme issue brings together cutting-edge approaches to the study of face-to-face interaction and showcases how we can make progress in this area. Researchers are now studying interaction in adult conversation, parent-child relationships, neurodiverse groups, interactions with virtual agents and various animal species. The theme issue reveals how new paradigms are leading to more ecologically grounded and comprehensive insights into what social interaction is. Scientific advances in this area can lead to improvements in education and therapy, better understanding of neurodiversity and more engaging artificial agents
  • Hamilton, A., & Holler, J. (2023). Face2face: Advancing the science of social interaction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 378(1875): 20210470. doi:10.1098/rstb.2021.0470.

    Abstract

    Face-to-face interaction is core to human sociality and its evolution, and provides the environment in which most of human communication occurs. Research into the full complexities that define face-to-face interaction requires a multi-disciplinary, multi-level approach, illuminating from different perspectives how we and other species interact. This special issue showcases a wide range of approaches, bringing together detailed studies of naturalistic social-interactional behaviour with larger scale analyses for generalization, and investigations of socially contextualized cognitive and neural processes that underpin the behaviour we observe. We suggest that this integrative approach will allow us to propel forwards the science of face-to-face interaction by leading us to new paradigms and novel, more ecologically grounded and comprehensive insights into how we interact with one another and with artificial agents, how differences in psychological profiles might affect interaction, and how the capacity to socially interact develops and has evolved in the human and other species. This theme issue makes a first step into this direction, with the aim to break down disciplinary boundaries and emphasizing the value of illuminating the many facets of face-to-face interaction.
  • Hintz, F., Khoe, Y. H., Strauß, A., Psomakas, A. J. A., & Holler, J. (2023). Electrophysiological evidence for the enhancement of gesture-speech integration by linguistic predictability during multimodal discourse comprehension. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience, 23, 340-353. doi:10.3758/s13415-023-01074-8.

    Abstract

    In face-to-face discourse, listeners exploit cues in the input to generate predictions about upcoming words. Moreover, in addition to speech, speakers produce a multitude of visual signals, such as iconic gestures, which listeners readily integrate with incoming words. Previous studies have shown that processing of target words is facilitated when these are embedded in predictable compared to non-predictable discourses and when accompanied by iconic compared to meaningless gestures. In the present study, we investigated the interaction of both factors. We recorded electroencephalogram from 60 Dutch adults while they were watching videos of an actress producing short discourses. The stimuli consisted of an introductory and a target sentence; the latter contained a target noun. Depending on the preceding discourse, the target noun was either predictable or not. Each target noun was paired with an iconic gesture and a gesture that did not convey meaning. In both conditions, gesture presentation in the video was timed such that the gesture stroke slightly preceded the onset of the spoken target by 130 ms. Our ERP analyses revealed independent facilitatory effects for predictable discourses and iconic gestures. However, the interactive effect of both factors demonstrated that target processing (i.e., gesture-speech integration) was facilitated most when targets were part of predictable discourses and accompanied by an iconic gesture. Our results thus suggest a strong intertwinement of linguistic predictability and non-verbal gesture processing where listeners exploit predictive discourse cues to pre-activate verbal and non-verbal representations of upcoming target words.
  • Kendrick, K. H., Holler, J., & Levinson, S. C. (2023). Turn-taking in human face-to-face interaction is multimodal: Gaze direction and manual gestures aid the coordination of turn transitions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 378(1875): 20210473. doi:10.1098/rstb.2021.0473.

    Abstract

    Human communicative interaction is characterized by rapid and precise turn-taking. This is achieved by an intricate system that has been elucidated in the field of conversation analysis, based largely on the study of the auditory signal. This model suggests that transitions occur at points of possible completion identified in terms of linguistic units. Despite this, considerable evidence exists that visible bodily actions including gaze and gestures also play a role. To reconcile disparate models and observations in the literature, we combine qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse turn-taking in a corpus of multimodal interaction using eye-trackers and multiple cameras. We show that transitions seem to be inhibited when a speaker averts their gaze at a point of possible turn completion, or when a speaker produces gestures which are beginning or unfinished at such points. We further show that while the direction of a speaker's gaze does not affect the speed of transitions, the production of manual gestures does: turns with gestures have faster transitions. Our findings suggest that the coordination of transitions involves not only linguistic resources but also visual gestural ones and that the transition-relevance places in turns are multimodal in nature.

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    supplemental material
  • Mazzini, S., Holler, J., & Drijvers, L. (2023). Studying naturalistic human communication using dual-EEG and audio-visual recordings. STAR Protocols, 4(3): 102370. doi:10.1016/j.xpro.2023.102370.

    Abstract

    We present a protocol to study naturalistic human communication using dual-EEG and audio-visual recordings. We describe preparatory steps for data collection including setup preparation, experiment design, and piloting. We then describe the data collection process in detail which consists of participant recruitment, experiment room preparation, and data collection. We also outline the kinds of research questions that can be addressed with the current protocol, including several analysis possibilities, from conversational to advanced time-frequency analyses.
    For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Drijvers and Holler (2022).
  • Nota, N., Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2023). Specific facial signals associate with categories of social actions conveyed through questions. PLoS One, 18(7): e0288104. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0288104.

    Abstract

    The early recognition of fundamental social actions, like questions, is crucial for understanding the speaker’s intended message and planning a timely response in conversation. Questions themselves may express more than one social action category (e.g., an information request “What time is it?”, an invitation “Will you come to my party?” or a criticism “Are you crazy?”). Although human language use occurs predominantly in a multimodal context, prior research on social actions has mainly focused on the verbal modality. This study breaks new ground by investigating how conversational facial signals may map onto the expression of different types of social actions conveyed through questions. The distribution, timing, and temporal organization of facial signals across social actions was analysed in a rich corpus of naturalistic, dyadic face-to-face Dutch conversations. These social actions were: Information Requests, Understanding Checks, Self-Directed questions, Stance or Sentiment questions, Other-Initiated Repairs, Active Participation questions, questions for Structuring, Initiating or Maintaining Conversation, and Plans and Actions questions. This is the first study to reveal differences in distribution and timing of facial signals across different types of social actions. The findings raise the possibility that facial signals may facilitate social action recognition during language processing in multimodal face-to-face interaction.

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  • Nota, N., Trujillo, J. P., Jacobs, V., & Holler, J. (2023). Facilitating question identification through natural intensity eyebrow movements in virtual avatars. Scientific Reports, 13: 21295. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-48586-4.

    Abstract

    In conversation, recognizing social actions (similar to ‘speech acts’) early is important to quickly understand the speaker’s intended message and to provide a fast response. Fast turns are typical for fundamental social actions like questions, since a long gap can indicate a dispreferred response. In multimodal face-to-face interaction, visual signals may contribute to this fast dynamic. The face is an important source of visual signalling, and previous research found that prevalent facial signals such as eyebrow movements facilitate the rapid recognition of questions. We aimed to investigate whether early eyebrow movements with natural movement intensities facilitate question identification, and whether specific intensities are more helpful in detecting questions. Participants were instructed to view videos of avatars where the presence of eyebrow movements (eyebrow frown or raise vs. no eyebrow movement) was manipulated, and to indicate whether the utterance in the video was a question or statement. Results showed higher accuracies for questions with eyebrow frowns, and faster response times for questions with eyebrow frowns and eyebrow raises. No additional effect was observed for the specific movement intensity. This suggests that eyebrow movements that are representative of naturalistic multimodal behaviour facilitate question recognition.
  • Nota, N., Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2023). Conversational eyebrow frowns facilitate question identification: An online study using virtual avatars. Cognitive Science, 47(12): e13392. doi:10.1111/cogs.13392.

    Abstract

    Conversation is a time-pressured environment. Recognizing a social action (the ‘‘speech act,’’ such as a question requesting information) early is crucial in conversation to quickly understand the intended message and plan a timely response. Fast turns between interlocutors are especially relevant for responses to questions since a long gap may be meaningful by itself. Human language is multimodal, involving speech as well as visual signals from the body, including the face. But little is known about how conversational facial signals contribute to the communication of social actions. Some of the most prominent facial signals in conversation are eyebrow movements. Previous studies found links between eyebrow movements and questions, suggesting that these facial signals could contribute to the rapid recognition of questions. Therefore, we aimed to investigate whether early eyebrow movements (eyebrow frown or raise vs. no eyebrow movement) facilitate question identification. Participants were instructed to view videos of avatars where the presence of eyebrow movements accompanying questions was manipulated. Their task was to indicate whether the utterance was a question or a statement as accurately and quickly as possible. Data were collected using the online testing platform Gorilla. Results showed higher accuracies and faster response times for questions with eyebrow frowns, suggesting a facilitative role of eyebrow frowns for question identification. This means that facial signals can critically contribute to the communication of social actions in conversation by signaling social action-specific visual information and providing visual cues to speakers’ intentions.

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  • Rasing, N. B., Van de Geest-Buit, W., Chan, O. Y. A., Mul, K., Lanser, A., Erasmus, C. E., Groothuis, J. T., Holler, J., Ingels, K. J. A. O., Post, B., Siemann, I., & Voermans, N. C. (2023). Psychosocial functioning in patients with altered facial expression: A scoping review in five neurological diseases. Disability and Rehabilitation. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/09638288.2023.2259310.

    Abstract

    Purpose

    To perform a scoping review to investigate the psychosocial impact of having an altered facial expression in five neurological diseases.
    Methods

    A systematic literature search was performed. Studies were on Bell’s palsy, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), Moebius syndrome, myotonic dystrophy type 1, or Parkinson’s disease patients; had a focus on altered facial expression; and had any form of psychosocial outcome measure. Data extraction focused on psychosocial outcomes.
    Results

    Bell’s palsy, myotonic dystrophy type 1, and Parkinson’s disease patients more often experienced some degree of psychosocial distress than healthy controls. In FSHD, facial weakness negatively influenced communication and was experienced as a burden. The psychosocial distress applied especially to women (Bell’s palsy and Parkinson’s disease), and patients with more severely altered facial expression (Bell’s palsy), but not for Moebius syndrome patients. Furthermore, Parkinson’s disease patients with more pronounced hypomimia were perceived more negatively by observers. Various strategies were reported to compensate for altered facial expression.
    Conclusions

    This review showed that patients with altered facial expression in four of five included neurological diseases had reduced psychosocial functioning. Future research recommendations include studies on observers’ judgements of patients during social interactions and on the effectiveness of compensation strategies in enhancing psychosocial functioning.
    Implications for rehabilitation

    Negative effects of altered facial expression on psychosocial functioning are common and more abundant in women and in more severely affected patients with various neurological disorders.

    Health care professionals should be alert to psychosocial distress in patients with altered facial expression.

    Learning of compensatory strategies could be a beneficial therapy for patients with psychosocial distress due to an altered facial expression.
  • Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2023). Interactionally embedded gestalt principles of multimodal human communication. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 18(5), 1136-1159. doi:10.1177/17456916221141422.

    Abstract

    Natural human interaction requires us to produce and process many different signals, including speech, hand and head gestures, and facial expressions. These communicative signals, which occur in a variety of temporal relations with each other (e.g., parallel or temporally misaligned), must be rapidly processed as a coherent message by the receiver. In this contribution, we introduce the notion of interactionally embedded, affordance-driven gestalt perception as a framework that can explain how this rapid processing of multimodal signals is achieved as efficiently as it is. We discuss empirical evidence showing how basic principles of gestalt perception can explain some aspects of unimodal phenomena such as verbal language processing and visual scene perception but require additional features to explain multimodal human communication. We propose a framework in which high-level gestalt predictions are continuously updated by incoming sensory input, such as unfolding speech and visual signals. We outline the constituent processes that shape high-level gestalt perception and their role in perceiving relevance and prägnanz. Finally, we provide testable predictions that arise from this multimodal interactionally embedded gestalt-perception framework. This review and framework therefore provide a theoretically motivated account of how we may understand the highly complex, multimodal behaviors inherent in natural social interaction.
  • Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2022). Face-to-face spatial orientation fine-tunes the brain for neurocognitive processing in conversation. iScience, 25(11): 105413. doi:10.1016/j.isci.2022.105413.

    Abstract

    We here demonstrate that face-to-face spatial orientation induces a special ‘social mode’ for neurocognitive processing during conversation, even in the absence of visibility. Participants conversed face-to-face, face-to-face but visually occluded, and back-to-back to tease apart effects caused by seeing visual communicative signals and by spatial orientation. Using dual-EEG, we found that 1) listeners’ brains engaged more strongly while conversing in face-to-face than back-to-back, irrespective of the visibility of communicative signals, 2) listeners attended to speech more strongly in a back-to-back compared to a face-to-face spatial orientation without visibility; visual signals further reduced the attention needed; 3) the brains of interlocutors were more in sync in a face-to-face compared to a back-to-back spatial orientation, even when they could not see each other; visual signals further enhanced this pattern. Communicating in face-to-face spatial orientation is thus sufficient to induce a special ‘social mode’ which fine-tunes the brain for neurocognitive processing in conversation.
  • Eijk, L., Rasenberg, M., Arnese, F., Blokpoel, M., Dingemanse, M., Doeller, C. F., Ernestus, M., Holler, J., Milivojevic, B., Özyürek, A., Pouw, W., Van Rooij, I., Schriefers, H., Toni, I., Trujillo, J. P., & Bögels, S. (2022). The CABB dataset: A multimodal corpus of communicative interactions for behavioural and neural analyses. NeuroImage, 264: 119734. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119734.

    Abstract

    We present a dataset of behavioural and fMRI observations acquired in the context of humans involved in multimodal referential communication. The dataset contains audio/video and motion-tracking recordings of face-to-face, task-based communicative interactions in Dutch, as well as behavioural and neural correlates of participants’ representations of dialogue referents. Seventy-one pairs of unacquainted participants performed two interleaved interactional tasks in which they described and located 16 novel geometrical objects (i.e., Fribbles) yielding spontaneous interactions of about one hour. We share high-quality video (from three cameras), audio (from head-mounted microphones), and motion-tracking (Kinect) data, as well as speech transcripts of the interactions. Before and after engaging in the face-to-face communicative interactions, participants’ individual representations of the 16 Fribbles were estimated. Behaviourally, participants provided a written description (one to three words) for each Fribble and positioned them along 29 independent conceptual dimensions (e.g., rounded, human, audible). Neurally, fMRI signal evoked by each Fribble was measured during a one-back working-memory task. To enable functional hyperalignment across participants, the dataset also includes fMRI measurements obtained during visual presentation of eight animated movies (35 minutes total). We present analyses for the various types of data demonstrating their quality and consistency with earlier research. Besides high-resolution multimodal interactional data, this dataset includes different correlates of communicative referents, obtained before and after face-to-face dialogue, allowing for novel investigations into the relation between communicative behaviours and the representational space shared by communicators. This unique combination of data can be used for research in neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, and beyond.
  • Holler, J., Drijvers, L., Rafiee, A., & Majid, A. (2022). Embodied space-pitch associations are shaped by language. Cognitive Science, 46(2): e13083. doi:10.1111/cogs.13083.

    Abstract

    Height-pitch associations are claimed to be universal and independent of language, but this claim remains controversial. The present study sheds new light on this debate with a multimodal analysis of individual sound and melody descriptions obtained in an interactive communication paradigm with speakers of Dutch and Farsi. The findings reveal that, in contrast to Dutch speakers, Farsi speakers do not use a height-pitch metaphor consistently in speech. Both Dutch and Farsi speakers’ co-speech gestures did reveal a mapping of higher pitches to higher space and lower pitches to lower space, and this gesture space-pitch mapping tended to co-occur with corresponding spatial words (high-low). However, this mapping was much weaker in Farsi speakers than Dutch speakers. This suggests that cross-linguistic differences shape the conceptualization of pitch and further calls into question the universality of height-pitch associations.

    Additional information

    supporting information
  • Holler, J. (2022). Visual bodily signals as core devices for coordinating minds in interaction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 377(1859): 20210094. doi:10.1098/rstb.2021.0094.

    Abstract

    The view put forward here is that visual bodily signals play a core role in human communication and the coordination of minds. Critically, this role goes far beyond referential and propositional meaning. The human communication system that we consider to be the explanandum in the evolution of language thus is not spoken language. It is, instead, a deeply multimodal, multilayered, multifunctional system that developed—and survived—owing to the extraordinary flexibility and adaptability that it endows us with. Beyond their undisputed iconic power, visual bodily signals (manual and head gestures, facial expressions, gaze, torso movements) fundamentally contribute to key pragmatic processes in modern human communication. This contribution becomes particularly evident with a focus that includes non-iconic manual signals, non-manual signals and signal combinations. Such a focus also needs to consider meaning encoded not just via iconic mappings, since kinematic modulations and interaction-bound meaning are additional properties equipping the body with striking pragmatic capacities. Some of these capacities, or its precursors, may have already been present in the last common ancestor we share with the great apes and may qualify as early versions of the components constituting the hypothesized interaction engine.
  • Holler, J., Bavelas, J., Woods, J., Geiger, M., & Simons, L. (2022). Given-new effects on the duration of gestures and of words in face-to-face dialogue. Discourse Processes, 59(8), 619-645. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2022.2107859.

    Abstract

    The given-new contract entails that speakers must distinguish for their addressee whether references are new or already part of their dialogue. Past research had found that, in a monologue to a listener, speakers shortened repeated words. However, the notion of the given-new contract is inherently dialogic, with an addressee and the availability of co-speech gestures. Here, two face-to-face dialogue experiments tested whether gesture duration also follows the given-new contract. In Experiment 1, four experimental sequences confirmed that when speakers repeated their gestures, they shortened the duration significantly. Experiment 2 replicated the effect with spontaneous gestures in a different task. This experiment also extended earlier results with words, confirming that speakers shortened their repeated words significantly in a multimodal dialogue setting, the basic form of language use. Because words and gestures were not necessarily redundant, these results offer another instance in which gestures and words independently serve pragmatic requirements of dialogue.
  • Pouw, W., & Holler, J. (2022). Timing in conversation is dynamically adjusted turn by turn in dyadic telephone conversations. Cognition, 222: 105015. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2022.105015.

    Abstract

    Conversational turn taking in humans involves incredibly rapid responding. The timing mechanisms underpinning such responses have been heavily debated, including questions such as who is doing the timing. Similar to findings on rhythmic tapping to a metronome, we show that floor transfer offsets (FTOs) in telephone conversations are serially dependent, such that FTOs are lag-1 negatively autocorrelated. Finding this serial dependence on a turn-by-turn basis (lag-1) rather than on the basis of two or more turns, suggests a counter-adjustment mechanism operating at the level of the dyad in FTOs during telephone conversations, rather than a more individualistic self-adjustment within speakers. This finding, if replicated, has major implications for models describing turn taking, and confirms the joint, dyadic nature of human conversational dynamics. Future research is needed to see how pervasive serial dependencies in FTOs are, such as for example in richer communicative face-to-face contexts where visual signals affect conversational timing.
  • Schubotz, L., Özyürek, A., & Holler, J. (2022). Individual differences in working memory and semantic fluency predict younger and older adults' multimodal recipient design in an interactive spatial task. Acta Psychologica, 229: 103690. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2022.103690.

    Abstract

    Aging appears to impair the ability to adapt speech and gestures based on knowledge shared with an addressee
    (common ground-based recipient design) in narrative settings. Here, we test whether this extends to spatial settings
    and is modulated by cognitive abilities. Younger and older adults gave instructions on how to assemble 3D-
    models from building blocks on six consecutive trials. We induced mutually shared knowledge by either
    showing speaker and addressee the model beforehand, or not. Additionally, shared knowledge accumulated
    across the trials. Younger and crucially also older adults provided recipient-designed utterances, indicated by a
    significant reduction in the number of words and of gestures when common ground was present. Additionally, we
    observed a reduction in semantic content and a shift in cross-modal distribution of information across trials.
    Rather than age, individual differences in verbal and visual working memory and semantic fluency predicted the
    extent of addressee-based adaptations. Thus, in spatial tasks, individual cognitive abilities modulate the inter-
    active language use of both younger and older adul

    Additional information

    1-s2.0-S0001691822002050-mmc1.docx
  • Trujillo, J. P., Levinson, S. C., & Holler, J. (2022). A multi-scale investigation of the human communication system's response to visual disruption. Royal Society Open Science, 9(4): 211489. doi:10.1098/rsos.211489.

    Abstract

    In human communication, when the speech is disrupted, the visual channel (e.g. manual gestures) can compensate to ensure successful communication. Whether speech also compensates when the visual channel is disrupted is an open question, and one that significantly bears on the status of the gestural modality. We test whether gesture and speech are dynamically co-adapted to meet communicative needs. To this end, we parametrically reduce visibility during casual conversational interaction and measure the effects on speakers' communicative behaviour using motion tracking and manual annotation for kinematic and acoustic analyses. We found that visual signalling effort was flexibly adapted in response to a decrease in visual quality (especially motion energy, gesture rate, size, velocity and hold-time). Interestingly, speech was also affected: speech intensity increased in response to reduced visual quality (particularly in speech-gesture utterances, but independently of kinematics). Our findings highlight that multi-modal communicative behaviours are flexibly adapted at multiple scales of measurement and question the notion that gesture plays an inferior role to speech.

    Additional information

    supplemental material
  • Holler, J., Alday, P. M., Decuyper, C., Geiger, M., Kendrick, K. H., & Meyer, A. S. (2021). Competition reduces response times in multiparty conversation. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 693124. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.693124.

    Abstract

    Natural conversations are characterized by short transition times between turns. This holds in particular for multi-party conversations. The short turn transitions in everyday conversations contrast sharply with the much longer speech onset latencies observed in laboratory studies where speakers respond to spoken utterances. There are many factors that facilitate speech production in conversational compared to laboratory settings. Here we highlight one of them, the impact of competition for turns. In multi-party conversations, speakers often compete for turns. In quantitative corpus analyses of multi-party conversation, the fastest response determines the recorded turn transition time. In contrast, in dyadic conversations such competition for turns is much less likely to arise, and in laboratory experiments with individual participants it does not arise at all. Therefore, all responses tend to be recorded. Thus, competition for turns may reduce the recorded mean turn transition times in multi-party conversations for a simple statistical reason: slow responses are not included in the means. We report two studies illustrating this point. We first report the results of simulations showing how much the response times in a laboratory experiment would be reduced if, for each trial, instead of recording all responses, only the fastest responses of several participants responding independently on the trial were recorded. We then present results from a quantitative corpus analysis comparing turn transition times in dyadic and triadic conversations. There was no significant group size effect in question-response transition times, where the present speaker often selects the next one, thus reducing competition between speakers. But, as predicted, triads showed shorter turn transition times than dyads for the remaining turn transitions, where competition for the floor was more likely to arise. Together, these data show that turn transition times in conversation should be interpreted in the context of group size, turn transition type, and social setting.
  • Humphries, S., Holler*, J., Crawford, T., & Poliakoff*, E. (2021). Cospeech gestures are a window into the effects of Parkinson’s disease on action representations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(8), 1581-1597. doi:10.1037/xge0001002.

    Abstract

    -* indicates joint senior authors - Parkinson’s disease impairs motor function and cognition, which together affect language and
    communication. Co-speech gestures are a form of language-related actions that provide imagistic
    depictions of the speech content they accompany. Gestures rely on visual and motor imagery, but
    it is unknown whether gesture representations require the involvement of intact neural sensory
    and motor systems. We tested this hypothesis with a fine-grained analysis of co-speech action
    gestures in Parkinson’s disease. 37 people with Parkinson’s disease and 33 controls described
    two scenes featuring actions which varied in their inherent degree of bodily motion. In addition
    to the perspective of action gestures (gestural viewpoint/first- vs. third-person perspective), we
    analysed how Parkinson’s patients represent manner (how something/someone moves) and path
    information (where something/someone moves to) in gesture, depending on the degree of bodily
    motion involved in the action depicted. We replicated an earlier finding that people with
    Parkinson’s disease are less likely to gesture about actions from a first-person perspective – preferring instead to depict actions gesturally from a third-person perspective – and show that
    this effect is modulated by the degree of bodily motion in the actions being depicted. When
    describing high motion actions, the Parkinson’s group were specifically impaired in depicting
    manner information in gesture and their use of third-person path-only gestures was significantly
    increased. Gestures about low motion actions were relatively spared. These results inform our
    understanding of the neural and cognitive basis of gesture production by providing
    neuropsychological evidence that action gesture production relies on intact motor network
    function.

    Additional information

    Open data and code
  • Nota, N., Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2021). Facial signals and social actions in multimodal face-to-face interaction. Brain Sciences, 11(8): 1017. doi:10.3390/brainsci11081017.

    Abstract

    In a conversation, recognising the speaker’s social action (e.g., a request) early may help the potential following speakers understand the intended message quickly, and plan a timely response. Human language is multimodal, and several studies have demonstrated the contribution of the body to communication. However, comparatively few studies have investigated (non-emotional) conversational facial signals and very little is known about how they contribute to the communication of social actions. Therefore, we investigated how facial signals map onto the expressions of two fundamental social actions in conversations: asking questions and providing responses. We studied the distribution and timing of 12 facial signals across 6778 questions and 4553 responses, annotated holistically in a corpus of 34 dyadic face-to-face Dutch conversations. Moreover, we analysed facial signal clustering to find out whether there are specific combinations of facial signals within questions or responses. Results showed a high proportion of facial signals, with a qualitatively different distribution in questions versus responses. Additionally, clusters of facial signals were identified. Most facial signals occurred early in the utterance, and had earlier onsets in questions. Thus, facial signals may critically contribute to the communication of social actions in conversation by providing social action-specific visual information.
  • Pouw, W., Proksch, S., Drijvers, L., Gamba, M., Holler, J., Kello, C., Schaefer, R. S., & Wiggins, G. A. (2021). Multilevel rhythms in multimodal communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200334. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0334.

    Abstract

    It is now widely accepted that the brunt of animal communication is conducted via several modalities, e.g. acoustic and visual, either simultaneously or sequentially. This is a laudable multimodal turn relative to traditional accounts of temporal aspects of animal communication which have focused on a single modality at a time. However, the fields that are currently contributing to the study of multimodal communication are highly varied, and still largely disconnected given their sole focus on a particular level of description or their particular concern with human or non-human animals. Here, we provide an integrative overview of converging findings that show how multimodal processes occurring at neural, bodily, as well as social interactional levels each contribute uniquely to the complex rhythms that characterize communication in human and non-human animals. Though we address findings for each of these levels independently, we conclude that the most important challenge in this field is to identify how processes at these different levels connect.
  • Pronina, M., Hübscher, I., Holler, J., & Prieto, P. (2021). Interactional training interventions boost children’s expressive pragmatic abilities: Evidence from a novel multidimensional testing approach. Cognitive Development, 57: 101003. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2020.101003.

    Abstract

    This study investigates the effectiveness of training preschoolers in order to enhance their social cognition and pragmatic skills. Eighty-three 3–4-year-olds were divided into three groups and listened to stories enriched with mental state terms. Then, whereas the control group engaged in non-reflective activities, the two experimental groups were guided by a trainer to reflect on mental states depicted in the stories. In one of these groups, the children were prompted to not only talk about these states but also “embody” them through prosodic and gestural cues. Results showed that while there were no significant effects on Theory of Mind, emotion understanding, and mental state verb comprehension, the experimental groups significantly improved their pragmatic skill scores pretest-to-posttest. These results suggest that interactional interventions can contribute to preschoolers’ pragmatic development, demonstrate the value of the new embodied training, and highlight the importance of multidimensional testing for the evaluation of intervention effects.
  • Schubotz, L., Holler, J., Drijvers, L., & Ozyurek, A. (2021). Aging and working memory modulate the ability to benefit from visible speech and iconic gestures during speech-in-noise comprehension. Psychological Research, 85, 1997-2011. doi:10.1007/s00426-020-01363-8.

    Abstract

    When comprehending speech-in-noise (SiN), younger and older adults benefit from seeing the speaker’s mouth, i.e. visible speech. Younger adults additionally benefit from manual iconic co-speech gestures. Here, we investigate to what extent younger and older adults benefit from perceiving both visual articulators while comprehending SiN, and whether this is modulated by working memory and inhibitory control. Twenty-eight younger and 28 older adults performed a word recognition task in three visual contexts: mouth blurred (speech-only), visible speech, or visible speech + iconic gesture. The speech signal was either clear or embedded in multitalker babble. Additionally, there were two visual-only conditions (visible speech, visible speech + gesture). Accuracy levels for both age groups were higher when both visual articulators were present compared to either one or none. However, older adults received a significantly smaller benefit than younger adults, although they performed equally well in speech-only and visual-only word recognition. Individual differences in verbal working memory and inhibitory control partly accounted for age-related performance differences. To conclude, perceiving iconic gestures in addition to visible speech improves younger and older adults’ comprehension of SiN. Yet, the ability to benefit from this additional visual information is modulated by age and verbal working memory. Future research will have to show whether these findings extend beyond the single word level.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Trujillo, J. P., & Holler, J. (2021). The kinematics of social action: Visual signals provide cues for what interlocutors do in conversation. Brain Sciences, 11: 996. doi:10.3390/brainsci11080996.

    Abstract

    During natural conversation, people must quickly understand the meaning of what the other speaker is saying. This concerns not just the semantic content of an utterance, but also the social action (i.e., what the utterance is doing—requesting information, offering, evaluating, checking mutual understanding, etc.) that the utterance is performing. The multimodal nature of human language raises the question of whether visual signals may contribute to the rapid processing of such social actions. However, while previous research has shown that how we move reveals the intentions underlying instrumental actions, we do not know whether the intentions underlying fine-grained social actions in conversation are also revealed in our bodily movements. Using a corpus of dyadic conversations combined with manual annotation and motion tracking, we analyzed the kinematics of the torso, head, and hands during the asking of questions. Manual annotation categorized these questions into six more fine-grained social action types (i.e., request for information, other-initiated repair, understanding check, stance or sentiment, self-directed, active participation). We demonstrate, for the first time, that the kinematics of the torso, head and hands differ between some of these different social action categories based on a 900 ms time window that captures movements starting slightly prior to or within 600 ms after utterance onset. These results provide novel insights into the extent to which our intentions shape the way that we move, and provide new avenues for understanding how this phenomenon may facilitate the fast communication of meaning in conversational interaction, social action, and conversation

    Additional information

    analyses scripts
  • Trujillo, J. P., Ozyurek, A., Holler, J., & Drijvers, L. (2021). Speakers exhibit a multimodal Lombard effect in noise. Scientific Reports, 11: 16721. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-95791-0.

    Abstract

    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 mouth movements, and (2) acoustic modulation only occurs when gestures are not present, while 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 the visual channel carries most of the communicative burden.

    Additional information

    supplementary material
  • Trujillo, J. P., Levinson, S. C., & Holler, J. (2021). Visual information in computer-mediated interaction matters: Investigating the association between the availability of gesture and turn transition timing in conversation. In M. Kurosu (Ed.), Human-Computer Interaction. Design and User Experience Case Studies. HCII 2021 (pp. 643-657). Cham: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-78468-3_44.

    Abstract

    Natural human interaction involves the fast-paced exchange of speaker turns. Crucially, if a next speaker waited with planning their turn until the current speaker was finished, language production models would predict much longer turn transition times than what we observe. Next speakers must therefore prepare their turn in parallel to listening. Visual signals likely play a role in this process, for example by helping the next speaker to process the ongoing utterance and thus prepare an appropriately-timed response.

    To understand how visual signals contribute to the timing of turn-taking, and to move beyond the mostly qualitative studies of gesture in conversation, we examined unconstrained, computer-mediated conversations between 20 pairs of participants while systematically manipulating speaker visibility. Using motion tracking and manual gesture annotation, we assessed 1) how visibility affected the timing of turn transitions, and 2) whether use of co-speech gestures and 3) the communicative kinematic features of these gestures were associated with changes in turn transition timing.

    We found that 1) decreased visibility was associated with less tightly timed turn transitions, and 2) the presence of gestures was associated with more tightly timed turn transitions across visibility conditions. Finally, 3) structural and salient kinematics contributed to gesture’s facilitatory effect on turn transition times.

    Our findings suggest that speaker visibility--and especially the presence and kinematic form of gestures--during conversation contributes to the temporal coordination of conversational turns in computer-mediated settings. Furthermore, our study demonstrates that it is possible to use naturalistic conversation and still obtain controlled results.
  • Bosker, H. R., Peeters, D., & Holler, J. (2020). How visual cues to speech rate influence speech perception. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73(10), 1523-1536. doi:10.1177/1747021820914564.

    Abstract

    Spoken words are highly variable and therefore listeners interpret speech sounds relative to the surrounding acoustic context, such as the speech rate of a preceding sentence. For instance, a vowel midway between short /ɑ/ and long /a:/ in Dutch is perceived as short /ɑ/ in the context of preceding slow speech, but as long /a:/ if preceded by a fast context. Despite the well-established influence of visual articulatory cues on speech comprehension, it remains unclear whether visual cues to speech rate also influence subsequent spoken word recognition. In two ‘Go Fish’-like experiments, participants were presented with audio-only (auditory speech + fixation cross), visual-only (mute videos of talking head), and audiovisual (speech + videos) context sentences, followed by ambiguous target words containing vowels midway between short /ɑ/ and long /a:/. In Experiment 1, target words were always presented auditorily, without visual articulatory cues. Although the audio-only and audiovisual contexts induced a rate effect (i.e., more long /a:/ responses after fast contexts), the visual-only condition did not. When, in Experiment 2, target words were presented audiovisually, rate effects were observed in all three conditions, including visual-only. This suggests that visual cues to speech rate in a context sentence influence the perception of following visual target cues (e.g., duration of lip aperture), which at an audiovisual integration stage bias participants’ target categorization responses. These findings contribute to a better understanding of how what we see influences what we hear.
  • Macuch Silva, V., Holler, J., Ozyurek, A., & Roberts, S. G. (2020). Multimodality and the origin of a novel communication system in face-to-face interaction. Royal Society Open Science, 7: 182056. doi:10.1098/rsos.182056.

    Abstract

    Face-to-face communication is multimodal at its core: it consists of a combination of vocal and visual signalling. However, current evidence suggests that, in the absence of an established communication system, visual signalling, especially in the form of visible gesture, is a more powerful form of communication than vocalisation, and therefore likely to have played a primary role in the emergence of human language. This argument is based on experimental evidence of how vocal and visual modalities (i.e., gesture) are employed to communicate about familiar concepts when participants cannot use their existing languages. To investigate this further, we introduce an experiment where pairs of participants performed a referential communication task in which they described unfamiliar stimuli in order to reduce reliance on conventional signals. Visual and auditory stimuli were described in three conditions: using visible gestures only, using non-linguistic vocalisations only and given the option to use both (multimodal communication). The results suggest that even in the absence of conventional signals, gesture is a more powerful mode of communication compared to vocalisation, but that there are also advantages to multimodality compared to using gesture alone. Participants with an option to produce multimodal signals had comparable accuracy to those using only gesture, but gained an efficiency advantage. The analysis of the interactions between participants showed that interactants developed novel communication systems for unfamiliar stimuli by deploying different modalities flexibly to suit their needs and by taking advantage of multimodality when required.
  • Ripperda, J., Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2020). Speeding up the detection of non-iconic and iconic gestures (SPUDNIG): A toolkit for the automatic detection of hand movements and gestures in video data. Behavior Research Methods, 52(4), 1783-1794. doi:10.3758/s13428-020-01350-2.

    Abstract

    In human face-to-face communication, speech is frequently accompanied by visual signals, especially communicative hand gestures. Analyzing these visual signals requires detailed manual annotation of video data, which is often a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. To facilitate this process, we here present SPUDNIG (SPeeding Up the Detection of Non-iconic and Iconic Gestures), a tool to automatize the detection and annotation of hand movements in video data. We provide a detailed description of how SPUDNIG detects hand movement initiation and termination, as well as open-source code and a short tutorial on an easy-to-use graphical user interface (GUI) of our tool. We then provide a proof-of-principle and validation of our method by comparing SPUDNIG’s output to manual annotations of gestures by a human coder. While the tool does not entirely eliminate the need of a human coder (e.g., for false positives detection), our results demonstrate that SPUDNIG can detect both iconic and non-iconic gestures with very high accuracy, and could successfully detect all iconic gestures in our validation dataset. Importantly, SPUDNIG’s output can directly be imported into commonly used annotation tools such as ELAN and ANVIL. We therefore believe that SPUDNIG will be highly relevant for researchers studying multimodal communication due to its annotations significantly accelerating the analysis of large video corpora.

    Additional information

    data and materials
  • Sekine, K., Schoechl, C., Mulder, K., Holler, J., Kelly, S., Furman, R., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Evidence for children's online integration of simultaneous information from speech and iconic gestures: An ERP study. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(10), 1283-1294. doi:10.1080/23273798.2020.1737719.

    Abstract

    Children perceive iconic gestures, along with speech they hear. Previous studies have shown
    that children integrate information from both modalities. Yet it is not known whether children
    can integrate both types of information simultaneously as soon as they are available as adults
    do or processes them separately initially and integrate them later. Using electrophysiological
    measures, we examined the online neurocognitive processing of gesture-speech integration in
    6- to 7-year-old children. We focused on the N400 event-related potentials component which
    is modulated by semantic integration load. Children watched video clips of matching or
    mismatching gesture-speech combinations, which varied the semantic integration load. The
    ERPs showed that the amplitude of the N400 was larger in the mismatching condition than in
    the matching condition. This finding provides the first neural evidence that by the ages of 6
    or 7, children integrate multimodal semantic information in an online fashion comparable to
    that of adults.
  • 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. In Proceedings of the 7th GESPIN - Gesture and Speech in Interaction Conference. Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

    Abstract

    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.
  • Holler, J., & Levinson, S. C. (2019). Multimodal language processing in human communication. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 23(8), 639-652. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2019.05.006.

    Abstract

    Multiple layers of visual (and vocal) signals, plus their different onsets and offsets, represent a significant semantic and temporal binding problem during face-to-face conversation.
    Despite this complex unification process, multimodal messages appear to be processed faster than unimodal messages.

    Multimodal gestalt recognition and multilevel prediction are proposed to play a crucial role in facilitating multimodal language processing.

    The basis of the processing mechanisms involved in multimodal language comprehension is hypothesized to be domain general, coopted for communication, and refined with domain-specific characteristics.
    A new, situated framework for understanding human language processing is called for that takes into consideration the multilayered, multimodal nature of language and its production and comprehension in conversational interaction requiring fast processing.
  • Schubotz, L., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2019). Age-related differences in multimodal recipient design: Younger, but not older adults, adapt speech and co-speech gestures to common ground. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 34(2), 254-271. doi:10.1080/23273798.2018.1527377.

    Abstract

    Speakers can adapt their speech and co-speech gestures based on knowledge shared with an addressee (common ground-based recipient design). Here, we investigate whether these adaptations are modulated by the speaker’s age and cognitive abilities. Younger and older participants narrated six short comic stories to a same-aged addressee. Half of each story was known to both participants, the other half only to the speaker. The two age groups did not differ in terms of the number of words and narrative events mentioned per narration, or in terms of gesture frequency, gesture rate, or percentage of events expressed multimodally. However, only the younger participants reduced the amount of verbal and gestural information when narrating mutually known as opposed to novel story content. Age-related differences in cognitive abilities did not predict these differences in common ground-based recipient design. The older participants’ communicative behaviour may therefore also reflect differences in social or pragmatic goals.

    Additional information

    plcp_a_1527377_sm4510.pdf
  • Holler, J., Kendrick, K. H., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Processing language in face-to-face conversation: Questions with gestures get faster responses. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 25(5), 1900-1908. doi:10.3758/s13423-017-1363-z.

    Abstract

    The home of human language use is face-to-face interaction, a context in which communicative exchanges are characterised not only by bodily signals accompanying what is being said but also by a pattern of alternating turns at talk. This transition between turns is astonishingly fast—typically a mere 200-ms elapse between a current and a next speaker’s contribution—meaning that comprehending, producing, and coordinating conversational contributions in time is a significant challenge. This begs the question of whether the additional information carried by bodily signals facilitates or hinders language processing in this time-pressured environment. We present analyses of multimodal conversations revealing that bodily signals appear to profoundly influence language processing in interaction: Questions accompanied by gestures lead to shorter turn transition times—that is, to faster responses—than questions without gestures, and responses come earlier when gestures end before compared to after the question turn has ended. These findings hold even after taking into account prosodic patterns and other visual signals, such as gaze. The empirical findings presented here provide a first glimpse of the role of the body in the psycholinguistic processes underpinning human communication
  • Hömke, P., Holler, J., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Eye blinks are perceived as communicative signals in human face-to-face interaction. PLoS One, 13(12): e0208030. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0208030.

    Abstract

    In face-to-face communication, recurring intervals of mutual gaze allow listeners to provide speakers with visual feedback (e.g. nodding). Here, we investigate the potential feedback function of one of the subtlest of human movements—eye blinking. While blinking tends to be subliminal, the significance of mutual gaze in human interaction raises the question whether the interruption of mutual gaze through blinking may also be communicative. To answer this question, we developed a novel, virtual reality-based experimental paradigm, which enabled us to selectively manipulate blinking in a virtual listener, creating small differences in blink duration resulting in ‘short’ (208 ms) and ‘long’ (607 ms) blinks. We found that speakers unconsciously took into account the subtle differences in listeners’ blink duration, producing substantially shorter answers in response to long listener blinks. Our findings suggest that, in addition to physiological, perceptual and cognitive functions, listener blinks are also perceived as communicative signals, directly influencing speakers’ communicative behavior in face-to-face communication. More generally, these findings may be interpreted as shedding new light on the evolutionary origins of mental-state signaling, which is a crucial ingredient for achieving mutual understanding in everyday social interaction.

    Additional information

    Supporting information
  • Holler, J., & Bavelas, J. (2017). Multi-modal communication of common ground: A review of social functions. In R. B. Church, M. W. Alibali, & S. D. Kelly (Eds.), Why gesture? How the hands function in speaking, thinking and communicating (pp. 213-240). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Until recently, the literature on common ground depicted its influence as a purely verbal phenomenon. We review current research on how common ground influences gesture. With informative exceptions, most experiments found that speakers used fewer gestures as well as fewer words in common ground contexts; i.e., the gesture/word ratio did not change. Common ground often led to more poorly articulated gestures, which parallels its effect on words. These findings support the principle of recipient design as well as more specific social functions such as grounding, the given-new contract, and Grice’s maxims. However, conceptual pacts or linking old with new information may maintain the original form. All together, these findings implicate gesture-speech ensembles rather than isolated effects on gestures alone.
  • Hömke, P., Holler, J., & Levinson, S. C. (2017). Eye blinking as addressee feedback in face-to-face conversation. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 50, 54-70. doi:10.1080/08351813.2017.1262143.

    Abstract

    Does blinking function as a type of feedback in conversation? To address this question, we built a corpus of Dutch conversations, identified short and long addressee blinks during extended turns, and measured their occurrence relative to the end of turn constructional units (TCUs), the location
    where feedback typically occurs. Addressee blinks were indeed timed to the
    end of TCUs. Also, long blinks were more likely than short blinks to occur
    during mutual gaze, with nods or continuers, and their occurrence was
    restricted to sequential contexts in which signaling understanding was
    particularly relevant, suggesting a special signaling capacity of long blinks.
  • Kendrick, K. H., & Holler, J. (2017). Gaze direction signals response preference in conversation. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 50(1), 12-32. doi:10.1080/08351813.2017.1262120.

    Abstract

    In this article, we examine gaze direction in responses to polar questions using both quantitative and conversation analytic (CA) methods. The data come from a novel corpus of conversations in which participants wore eye-tracking glasses to obtain direct measures of their eye movements. The results show that while most preferred responses are produced with gaze toward the questioner, most dispreferred responses are produced with gaze aversion. We further demonstrate that gaze aversion by respondents can occasion self-repair by questioners in the transition space between turns, indicating that the relationship between gaze direction and preference is more than a mere statistical association. We conclude that gaze direction in responses to polar questions functions as a signal of response preference. Data are in American, British, and Canadian English.

    Additional information

    hrls_a_1262120_sm9379.pdf
  • Holler, J., Kendrick, K. H., Casillas, M., & Levinson, S. C. (Eds.). (2016). Turn-Taking in Human Communicative Interaction. Lausanne: Frontiers Media. doi:10.3389/978-2-88919-825-2.

    Abstract

    The core use of language is in face-to-face conversation. This is characterized by rapid turn-taking. This turn-taking poses a number central puzzles for the psychology of language.

    Consider, for example, that in large corpora the gap between turns is on the order of 100 to 300 ms, but the latencies involved in language production require minimally between 600ms (for a single word) or 1500 ms (for as simple sentence). This implies that participants in conversation are predicting the ends of the incoming turn and preparing in advance. But how is this done? What aspects of this prediction are done when? What happens when the prediction is wrong? What stops participants coming in too early? If the system is running on prediction, why is there consistently a mode of 100 to 300 ms in response time?

    The timing puzzle raises further puzzles: it seems that comprehension must run parallel with the preparation for production, but it has been presumed that there are strict cognitive limitations on more than one central process running at a time. How is this bottleneck overcome? Far from being 'easy' as some psychologists have suggested, conversation may be one of the most demanding cognitive tasks in our everyday lives. Further questions naturally arise: how do children learn to master this demanding task, and what is the developmental trajectory in this domain?

    Research shows that aspects of turn-taking such as its timing are remarkably stable across languages and cultures, but the word order of languages varies enormously. How then does prediction of the incoming turn work when the verb (often the informational nugget in a clause) is at the end? Conversely, how can production work fast enough in languages that have the verb at the beginning, thereby requiring early planning of the whole clause? What happens when one changes modality, as in sign languages -- with the loss of channel constraints is turn-taking much freer? And what about face-to-face communication amongst hearing individuals -- do gestures, gaze, and other body behaviors facilitate turn-taking? One can also ask the phylogenetic question: how did such a system evolve? There seem to be parallels (analogies) in duetting bird species, and in a variety of monkey species, but there is little evidence of anything like this among the great apes.

    All this constitutes a neglected set of problems at the heart of the psychology of language and of the language sciences. This research topic welcomes contributions from right across the board, for example from psycholinguists, developmental psychologists, students of dialogue and conversation analysis, linguists interested in the use of language, phoneticians, corpus analysts and comparative ethologists or psychologists. We welcome contributions of all sorts, for example original research papers, opinion pieces, and reviews of work in subfields that may not be fully understood in other subfields.
  • Humphries, S., Holler, J., Crawford, T. J., Herrera, E., & Poliakoff, E. (2016). A third-person perspective on co-speech action gestures in Parkinson’s disease. Cortex, 78, 44-54. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2016.02.009.

    Abstract

    A combination of impaired motor and cognitive function in Parkinson’s disease (PD) can impact on language and communication, with patients exhibiting a particular difficulty processing action verbs. Co-speech gestures embody a link between action and language and contribute significantly to communication in healthy people. Here, we investigated how co-speech gestures depicting actions are affected in PD, in particular with respect to the visual perspective—or the viewpoint – they depict. Gestures are closely related to mental imagery and motor simulations, but people with PD may be impaired in the way they simulate actions from a first-person perspective and may compensate for this by relying more on third-person visual features. We analysed the action-depicting gestures produced by mild-moderate PD patients and age-matched controls on an action description task and examined the relationship between gesture viewpoint, action naming, and performance on an action observation task (weight judgement). Healthy controls produced the majority of their action gestures from a first-person perspective, whereas PD patients produced a greater proportion of gestures produced from a third-person perspective. We propose that this reflects a compensatory reliance on third-person visual features in the simulation of actions in PD. Performance was also impaired in action naming and weight judgement, although this was unrelated to gesture viewpoint. Our findings provide a more comprehensive understanding of how action-language impairments in PD impact on action communication, on the cognitive underpinnings of this impairment, as well as elucidating the role of action simulation in gesture production
  • 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.

    Abstract

    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.
  • Holler, J., Kendrick, K. H., Casillas, M., & Levinson, S. C. (2015). Editorial: Turn-taking in human communicative interaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 1919. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01919.
  • Holler, J., Kokal, I., Toni, I., Hagoort, P., Kelly, S. D., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Eye’m talking to you: Speakers’ gaze direction modulates co-speech gesture processing in the right MTG. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 10, 255-261. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu047.

    Abstract

    Recipients process information from speech and co-speech gestures, but it is currently unknown how this processing is influenced by the presence of other important social cues, especially gaze direction, a marker of communicative intent. Such cues may modulate neural activity in regions associated either with the processing of ostensive cues, such as eye gaze, or with the processing of semantic information, provided by speech and gesture.
    Participants were scanned (fMRI) while taking part in triadic communication involving two recipients and a speaker. The speaker uttered sentences that
    were and were not accompanied by complementary iconic gestures. Crucially, the speaker alternated her gaze direction, thus creating two recipient roles: addressed (direct gaze) vs unaddressed (averted gaze) recipient. The comprehension of Speech&Gesture relative to SpeechOnly utterances recruited middle occipital, middle temporal and inferior frontal gyri, bilaterally. The calcarine sulcus and posterior cingulate cortex were sensitive to differences between direct and averted gaze. Most importantly, Speech&Gesture utterances, but not SpeechOnly utterances, produced additional activity in the right middle temporal gyrus when participants were addressed. Marking communicative intent with gaze direction modulates the processing of speech–gesture utterances in cerebral areas typically associated with the semantic processing of multi-modal communicative acts.
  • Holler, J., & Kendrick, K. H. (2015). Unaddressed participants’ gaze in multi-person interaction: Optimizing recipiency. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 98. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00098.

    Abstract

    One of the most intriguing aspects of human communication is its turn-taking system. It requires the ability to process on-going turns at talk while planning the next, and to launch this next turn without considerable overlap or delay. Recent research has investigated the eye movements of observers of dialogues to gain insight into how we process turns at talk. More specifically, this research has focused on the extent to which we are able to anticipate the end of current and the beginning of next turns. At the same time, there has been a call for shifting experimental paradigms exploring social-cognitive processes away from passive observation towards online processing. Here, we present research that responds to this call by situating state-of-the-art technology for tracking interlocutors’ eye movements within spontaneous, face-to-face conversation. Each conversation involved three native speakers of English. The analysis focused on question-response sequences involving just two of those participants, thus rendering the third momentarily unaddressed. Temporal analyses of the unaddressed participants’ gaze shifts from current to next speaker revealed that unaddressed participants are able to anticipate next turns, and moreover, that they often shift their gaze towards the next speaker before the current turn ends. However, an analysis of the complex structure of turns at talk revealed that the planning of these gaze shifts virtually coincides with the points at which the turns first become recog-nizable as possibly complete. We argue that the timing of these eye movements is governed by an organizational principle whereby unaddressed participants shift their gaze at a point that appears interactionally most optimal: It provides unaddressed participants with access to much of the visual, bodily behavior that accompanies both the current speaker’s and the next speaker’s turn, and it allows them to display recipiency with regard to both speakers’ turns.
  • Kelly, S., Healey, M., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2015). The processing of speech, gesture and action during language comprehension. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 517-523. doi:10.3758/s13423-014-0681-7.

    Abstract

    Hand gestures and speech form a single integrated system of meaning during language comprehension, but is gesture processed with speech in a unique fashion? We had subjects watch multimodal videos that presented auditory (words) and visual (gestures and actions on objects) information. Half of the subjects related the audio information to a written prime presented before the video, and the other half related the visual information to the written prime. For half of the multimodal video stimuli, the audio and visual information contents were congruent, and for the other half, they were incongruent. For all subjects, stimuli in which the gestures and actions were incongruent with the speech produced more errors and longer response times than did stimuli that were congruent, but this effect was less prominent for speech-action stimuli than for speech-gesture stimuli. However, subjects focusing on visual targets were more accurate when processing actions than gestures. These results suggest that although actions may be easier to process than gestures, gestures may be more tightly tied to the processing of accompanying speech.
  • Peeters, D., Chu, M., Holler, J., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Electrophysiological and kinematic correlates of communicative intent in the planning and production of pointing gestures and speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(12), 2352-2368. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00865.

    Abstract

    In everyday human communication, we often express our communicative intentions by manually pointing out referents in the material world around us to an addressee, often in tight synchronization with referential speech. This study investigated whether and how the kinematic form of index finger pointing gestures is shaped by the gesturer's communicative intentions and how this is modulated by the presence of concurrently produced speech. Furthermore, we explored the neural mechanisms underpinning the planning of communicative pointing gestures and speech. Two experiments were carried out in which participants pointed at referents for an addressee while the informativeness of their gestures and speech was varied. Kinematic and electrophysiological data were recorded online. It was found that participants prolonged the duration of the stroke and poststroke hold phase of their gesture to be more communicative, in particular when the gesture was carrying the main informational burden in their multimodal utterance. Frontal and P300 effects in the ERPs suggested the importance of intentional and modality-independent attentional mechanisms during the planning phase of informative pointing gestures. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the complex interplay between action, attention, intention, and language in the production of pointing gestures, a communicative act core to human interaction.
  • Rowbotham, S., Lloyd, D. M., Holler, J., & Wearden, A. (2015). Externalizing the private experience of pain: A role for co-speech gestures in pain communication? Health Communication, 30(1), 70-80. doi:10.1080/10410236.2013.836070.

    Abstract

    Despite the importance of effective pain communication, talking about pain represents a major challenge for patients and clinicians because pain is a private and subjective experience. Focusing primarily on acute pain, this article considers the limitations of current methods of obtaining information about the sensory characteristics of pain and suggests that spontaneously produced “co-speech hand gestures” may constitute an important source of information here. Although this is a relatively new area of research, we present recent empirical evidence that reveals that co-speech gestures contain important information about pain that can both add to and clarify speech. Following this, we discuss how these findings might eventually lead to a greater understanding of the sensory characteristics of pain, and to improvements in treatment and support for pain sufferers. We hope that this article will stimulate further research and discussion of this previously overlooked dimension of pain communication
  • Schubotz, L., Holler, J., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Age-related differences in multi-modal audience design: Young, but not old speakers, adapt speech and gestures to their addressee's knowledge. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference (pp. 211-216). Nantes: Université of Nantes.

    Abstract

    Speakers can adapt their speech and co-speech gestures for
    addressees. Here, we investigate whether this ability is
    modulated by age. Younger and older adults participated in a
    comic narration task in which one participant (the speaker)
    narrated six short comic stories to another participant (the
    addressee). One half of each story was known to both participants, the other half only to the speaker. Younger but
    not older speakers used more words and gestures when narrating novel story content as opposed to known content.
    We discuss cognitive and pragmatic explanations of these findings and relate them to theories of gesture production.
  • Holler, J. (2014). Experimental methods in co-speech gesture research. In C. Mueller, A. Cienki, D. McNeill, & E. Fricke (Eds.), Body -language – communication: An international handbook on multimodality in human interaction. Volume 1 (pp. 837-856). Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • Holler, J., Schubotz, L., Kelly, S., Hagoort, P., Schuetze, M., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). Social eye gaze modulates processing of speech and co-speech gesture. Cognition, 133, 692-697. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.08.008.

    Abstract

    In human face-to-face communication, language comprehension is a multi-modal, situated activity. However, little is known about how we combine information from different modalities during comprehension, and how perceived communicative intentions, often signaled through visual signals, influence this process. We explored this question by simulating a multi-party communication context in which a speaker alternated her gaze between two recipients. Participants viewed speech-only or speech + gesture object-related messages when being addressed (direct gaze) or unaddressed (gaze averted to other participant). They were then asked to choose which of two object images matched the speaker’s preceding message. Unaddressed recipients responded significantly more slowly than addressees for speech-only utterances. However, perceiving the same speech accompanied by gestures sped unaddressed recipients up to a level identical to that of addressees. That is, when unaddressed recipients’ speech processing suffers, gestures can enhance the comprehension of a speaker’s message. We discuss our findings with respect to two hypotheses attempting to account for how social eye gaze may modulate multi-modal language comprehension.
  • Levinson, S. C., & Holler, J. (2014). The origin of human multi-modal communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 369(1651): 2013030. doi:10.1098/rstb.2013.0302.

    Abstract

    One reason for the apparent gulf between animal and human communication systems is that the focus has been on the presence or the absence of language as a complex expressive system built on speech. But language normally occurs embedded within an interactional exchange of multi-modal signals. If this larger perspective takes central focus, then it becomes apparent that human communication has a layered structure, where the layers may be plausibly assigned different phylogenetic and evolutionary origins—especially in the light of recent thoughts on the emergence of voluntary breathing and spoken language. This perspective helps us to appreciate the different roles that the different modalities play in human communication, as well as how they function as one integrated system despite their different roles and origins. It also offers possibilities for reconciling the ‘gesture-first hypothesis’ with that of gesture and speech having evolved together, hand in hand—or hand in mouth, rather—as one system.
  • Rowbotham, S., Wardy, A. J., Lloyd, D. M., Wearden, A., & Holler, J. (2014). Increased pain intensity is associated with greater verbal communication difficulty and increased production of speech and co-speech gestures. PLoS One, 9(10): e110779. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110779.

    Abstract

    Effective pain communication is essential if adequate treatment and support are to be provided. Pain communication is often multimodal, with sufferers utilising speech, nonverbal behaviours (such as facial expressions), and co-speech gestures (bodily movements, primarily of the hands and arms that accompany speech and can convey semantic information) to communicate their experience. Research suggests that the production of nonverbal pain behaviours is positively associated with pain intensity, but it is not known whether this is also the case for speech and co-speech gestures. The present study explored whether increased pain intensity is associated with greater speech and gesture production during face-to-face communication about acute, experimental pain. Participants (N = 26) were exposed to experimentally elicited pressure pain to the fingernail bed at high and low intensities and took part in video-recorded semi-structured interviews. Despite rating more intense pain as more difficult to communicate (t(25) = 2.21, p = .037), participants produced significantly longer verbal pain descriptions and more co-speech gestures in the high intensity pain condition (Words: t(25) = 3.57, p = .001; Gestures: t(25) = 3.66, p = .001). This suggests that spoken and gestural communication about pain is enhanced when pain is more intense. Thus, in addition to conveying detailed semantic information about pain, speech and co-speech gestures may provide a cue to pain intensity, with implications for the treatment and support received by pain sufferers. Future work should consider whether these findings are applicable within the context of clinical interactions about pain.
  • Rowbotham, S., Holler, J., Lloyd, D., & Wearden, A. (2014). Handling pain: The semantic interplay of speech and co-speech hand gestures in the description of pain sensations. Speech Communication, 57, 244-256. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2013.04.002.

    Abstract

    Pain is a private and subjective experience about which effective communication is vital, particularly in medical settings. Speakers often represent information about pain sensation in both speech and co-speech hand gestures simultaneously, but it is not known whether gestures merely replicate spoken information or complement it in some way. We examined the representational contribution
    of gestures in a range of consecutive analyses. Firstly, we found that 78% of speech units containing pain sensation were accompanied by gestures, with 53% of these gestures representing pain sensation. Secondly, in 43% of these instances, gestures represented pain sensation information that was not contained in speech, contributing additional, complementary information to the pain sensation message.
    Finally, when applying a specificity analysis, we found that in contrast with research in different domains of talk, gestures did not make the pain sensation information in speech more specific. Rather, they complemented the verbal pain message by representing different
    aspects of pain sensation, contributing to a fuller representation of pain sensation than speech alone. These findings highlight the importance of gestures in communicating about pain sensation and suggest that this modality provides additional information to supplement and clarify the often ambiguous verbal pain message

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  • Theakston, A., Coates, A., & Holler, J. (2014). Handling agents and patients: Representational cospeech gestures help children comprehend complex syntactic constructions. Developmental Psychology, 50(7), 1973-1984. doi:10.1037/a0036694.

    Abstract

    Gesture is an important precursor of children’s early language development, for example, in the transition to multiword speech and as a predictor of later language abilities. However, it is unclear whether gestural input can influence children’s comprehension of complex grammatical constructions. In Study 1, 3- (M = 3 years 5 months) and 4-year-old (M = 4 years 6 months) children witnessed 2-participant actions described using the infrequent object-cleft-construction (OCC; It was the dog that the cat chased). Half saw an experimenter accompanying her descriptions with gestures representing the 2 participants and indicating the direction of action; the remaining children did not witness gesture. Children who witnessed gestures showed better comprehension of the OCC than those who did not witness gestures, both in and beyond the immediate physical context, but this benefit was restricted to the oldest 4-year-olds. In Study 2, a further group of older 4-year-old children (M = 4 years 7 months) witnessed the same 2-participant actions described by an experimenter and accompanied by gestures, but the gesture represented only the 2 participants and not the direction of the action. Again, a benefit of gesture was observed on subsequent comprehension of the OCC. We interpret these findings as demonstrating that representational cospeech gestures can help children comprehend complex linguistic structures by highlighting the roles played by the participants in the event.

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  • Cai, Z. G., Conell, L., & Holler, J. (2013). Time does not flow without language: Spatial distance affects temporal duration regardless of movement or direction. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20(5), 973-980. doi:10.3758/s13423-013-0414-3.

    Abstract

    Much evidence has suggested that people conceive of time as flowing directionally in transverse space (e.g., from left to right for English speakers). However, this phenomenon has never been tested in a fully nonlinguistic paradigm where neither stimuli nor task use linguistic labels, which raises the possibility that time is directional only when reading/writing direction has been evoked. In the present study, English-speaking participants viewed a video where an actor sang a note while gesturing and reproduced the duration of the sung note by pressing a button. Results showed that the perceived duration of the note was increased by a long-distance gesture, relative to a short-distance gesture. This effect was equally strong for gestures moving from left to right and from right to left and was not dependent on gestures depicting movement through space; a weaker version of the effect emerged with static gestures depicting spatial distance. Since both our gesture stimuli and temporal reproduction task were nonlinguistic, we conclude that the spatial representation of time is nondirectional: Movement contributes, but is not necessary, to the representation of temporal information in a transverse timeline.
  • Connell, L., Cai, Z. G., & Holler, J. (2013). Do you see what I'm singing? Visuospatial movement biases pitch perception. Brain and Cognition, 81, 124-130. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2012.09.005.

    Abstract

    The nature of the connection between musical and spatial processing is controversial. While pitch may be described in spatial terms such as “high” or “low”, it is unclear whether pitch and space are associated but separate dimensions or whether they share representational and processing resources. In the present study, we asked participants to judge whether a target vocal note was the same as (or different from) a preceding cue note. Importantly, target trials were presented as video clips where a singer sometimes gestured upward or downward while singing that target note, thus providing an alternative, concurrent source of spatial information. Our results show that pitch discrimination was significantly biased by the spatial movement in gesture, such that downward gestures made notes seem lower in pitch than they really were, and upward gestures made notes seem higher in pitch. These effects were eliminated by spatial memory load but preserved under verbal memory load conditions. Together, our findings suggest that pitch and space have a shared representation such that the mental representation of pitch is audiospatial in nature.
  • Hall, S., Rumney, L., Holler, J., & Kidd, E. (2013). Associations among play, gesture and early spoken language acquisition. First Language, 33, 294-312. doi:10.1177/0142723713487618.

    Abstract

    The present study investigated the developmental interrelationships between play, gesture use and spoken language development in children aged 18–31 months. The children completed two tasks: (i) a structured measure of pretend (or ‘symbolic’) play and (ii) a measure of vocabulary knowledge in which children have been shown to gesture. Additionally, their productive spoken language knowledge was measured via parental report. The results indicated that symbolic play is positively associated with children’s gesture use, which in turn is positively associated with spoken language knowledge over and above the influence of age. The tripartite relationship between gesture, play and language development is discussed with reference to current developmental theory.
  • Holler, J., Schubotz, L., Kelly, S., Schuetze, M., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2013). Here's not looking at you, kid! Unaddressed recipients benefit from co-speech gestures when speech processing suffers. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, I. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2013) (pp. 2560-2565). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved from http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2013/papers/0463/index.html.

    Abstract

    In human face-to-face communication, language comprehension is a multi-modal, situated activity. However, little is known about how we combine information from these different modalities, and how perceived communicative intentions, often signaled through visual signals, such as eye
    gaze, may influence this processing. We address this question by simulating a triadic communication context in which a
    speaker alternated her gaze between two different recipients. Participants thus viewed speech-only or speech+gesture
    object-related utterances when being addressed (direct gaze) or unaddressed (averted gaze). Two object images followed
    each message and participants’ task was to choose the object that matched the message. Unaddressed recipients responded significantly slower than addressees for speech-only
    utterances. However, perceiving the same speech accompanied by gestures sped them up to a level identical to
    that of addressees. That is, when speech processing suffers due to not being addressed, gesture processing remains intact and enhances the comprehension of a speaker’s message
  • 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.

    Abstract

    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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  • Lynott, D., Connell, L., & Holler, J. (Eds.). (2013). The role of body and environment in cognition. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 465. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00465.
  • Peeters, D., Chu, M., Holler, J., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2013). Getting to the point: The influence of communicative intent on the kinematics of pointing gestures. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2013) (pp. 1127-1132). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    In everyday communication, people not only use speech but
    also hand gestures to convey information. One intriguing
    question in gesture research has been why gestures take the
    specific form they do. Previous research has identified the
    speaker-gesturer’s communicative intent as one factor
    shaping the form of iconic gestures. Here we investigate
    whether communicative intent also shapes the form of
    pointing gestures. In an experimental setting, twenty-four
    participants produced pointing gestures identifying a referent
    for an addressee. The communicative intent of the speakergesturer
    was manipulated by varying the informativeness of
    the pointing gesture. A second independent variable was the
    presence or absence of concurrent speech. As a function of their communicative intent and irrespective of the presence of speech, participants varied the durations of the stroke and the post-stroke hold-phase of their gesture. These findings add to our understanding of how the communicative context influences the form that a gesture takes.
  • Connell, L., Cai, Z. G., & Holler, J. (2012). Do you see what I'm singing? Visuospatial movement biases pitch perception. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2012) (pp. 252-257). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

    Abstract

    The nature of the connection between musical and spatial processing is controversial. While pitch may be described in spatial terms such as “high” or “low”, it is unclear whether pitch and space are associated but separate dimensions or whether they share representational and processing resources. In the present study, we asked participants to judge whether a target vocal note was the same as (or different from) a preceding cue note. Importantly, target trials were presented as video clips where a singer sometimes gestured upward or downward while singing that target note, thus providing an alternative, concurrent source of spatial information. Our results show that pitch discrimination was significantly biased by the spatial movement in gesture. These effects were eliminated by spatial memory load but preserved under verbal memory load conditions. Together, our findings suggest that pitch and space have a shared representation such that the mental representation of pitch is audiospatial in nature.
  • Holler, J., Kelly, S., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). When gestures catch the eye: The influence of gaze direction on co-speech gesture comprehension in triadic communication. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2012) (pp. 467-472). Austin, TX: Cognitive Society. Retrieved from http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2012/papers/0092/index.html.

    Abstract

    Co-speech gestures are an integral part of human face-to-face communication, but little is known about how pragmatic factors influence our comprehension of those gestures. The present study investigates how different types of recipients process iconic gestures in a triadic communicative situation. Participants (N = 32) took on the role of one of two recipients in a triad and were presented with 160 video clips of an actor speaking, or speaking and gesturing. Crucially, the actor’s eye gaze was manipulated in that she alternated her gaze between the two recipients. Participants thus perceived some messages in the role of addressed recipient and some in the role of unaddressed recipient. In these roles, participants were asked to make judgements concerning the speaker’s messages. Their reaction times showed that unaddressed recipients did comprehend speaker’s gestures differently to addressees. The findings are discussed with respect to automatic and controlled processes involved in gesture comprehension.
  • Kelly, S., Healey, M., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2012). The communicative influence of gesture and action during speech comprehension: Gestures have the upper hand [Abstract]. Abstracts of the Acoustics 2012 Hong Kong conference published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131, 3311. doi:10.1121/1.4708385.

    Abstract

    Hand gestures combine with speech to form a single integrated system of meaning during language comprehension (Kelly et al., 2010). However, it is unknown whether gesture is uniquely integrated with speech or is processed like any other manual action. Thirty-one participants watched videos presenting speech with gestures or manual actions on objects. The relationship between the speech and gesture/action was either complementary (e.g., “He found the answer,” while producing a calculating gesture vs. actually using a calculator) or incongruent (e.g., the same sentence paired with the incongruent gesture/action of stirring with a spoon). Participants watched the video (prime) and then responded to a written word (target) that was or was not spoken in the video prime (e.g., “found” or “cut”). ERPs were taken to the primes (time-locked to the spoken verb, e.g., “found”) and the written targets. For primes, there was a larger frontal N400 (semantic processing) to incongruent vs. congruent items for the gesture, but not action, condition. For targets, the P2 (phonemic processing) was smaller for target words following congruent vs. incongruent gesture, but not action, primes. These findings suggest that hand gestures are integrated with speech in a privileged fashion compared to manual actions on objects.
  • Rowbotham, S., Holler, J., Lloyd, D., & Wearden, A. (2012). How do we communicate about pain? A systematic analysis of the semantic contribution of co-speech gestures in pain-focused conversations. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 36, 1-21. doi:10.1007/s10919-011-0122-5.

    Abstract

    The purpose of the present study was to investigate co-speech gesture use during communication about pain. Speakers described a recent pain experience and the data were analyzed using a ‘semantic feature approach’ to determine the distribution of information across gesture and speech. This analysis revealed that a considerable proportion of pain-focused talk was accompanied by gestures, and that these gestures often contained more information about pain than speech itself. Further, some gestures represented information that was hardly represented in speech at all. Overall, these results suggest that gestures are integral to the communication of pain and need to be attended to if recipients are to obtain a fuller understanding of the pain experience and provide help and support to pain sufferers.
  • Cleary, R. A., Poliakoff, E., Galpin, A., Dick, J. P., & Holler, J. (2011). An investigation of co-speech gesture production during action description in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 17, 753-756. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2011.08.001.

    Abstract

    Methods
    The present study provides a systematic analysis of co-speech gestures which spontaneously accompany the description of actions in a group of PD patients (N = 23, Hoehn and Yahr Stage III or less) and age-matched healthy controls (N = 22). The analysis considers different co-speech gesture types, using established classification schemes from the field of gesture research. The analysis focuses on the rate of these gestures as well as on their qualitative nature. In doing so, the analysis attempts to overcome several methodological shortcomings of research in this area.
    Results
    Contrary to expectation, gesture rate was not significantly affected in our patient group, with relatively mild PD. This indicates that co-speech gestures could compensate for speech problems. However, while gesture rate seems unaffected, the qualitative precision of gestures representing actions was significantly reduced.
    Conclusions
    This study demonstrates the feasibility of carrying out fine-grained, detailed analyses of gestures in PD and offers insights into an as yet neglected facet of communication in patients with PD. Based on the present findings, an important next step is the closer investigation of the qualitative changes in gesture (including different communicative situations) and an analysis of the heterogeneity in co-speech gesture production in PD.
  • Holler, J., & Wilkin, K. (2011). Co-speech gesture mimicry in the process of collaborative referring during face-to-face dialogue. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 35, 133-153. doi:10.1007/s10919-011-0105-6.

    Abstract

    Mimicry has been observed regarding a range of nonverbal behaviors, but only recently have researchers started to investigate mimicry in co-speech gestures. These gestures are considered to be crucially different from other aspects of nonverbal behavior due to their tight link with speech. This study provides evidence of mimicry in co-speech gestures in face-to-face dialogue, the most common forum of everyday talk. In addition, it offers an analysis of the functions that mimicked co-speech gestures fulfill in the collaborative process of creating a mutually shared understanding of referring expressions. The implications bear on theories of gesture production, research on grounding, and the mechanisms underlying behavioral mimicry.
  • Holler, J., Tutton, M., & Wilkin, K. (2011). Co-speech gestures in the process of meaning coordination. In Proceedings of the 2nd GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference, Bielefeld, 5-7 Sep 2011.

    Abstract

    This study uses a classical referential communication task to
    investigate the role of co-speech gestures in the process of
    coordination. The study manipulates both the common ground between the interlocutors, as well as the visibility of the gestures they use. The findings show that co-speech gestures are an integral part of the referential utterances speakers
    produced with regard to both initial references as well as repeated references, and that the availability of gestures appears to impact on interlocutors’ referential oordination. The results are discussed with regard to past research on
    common ground as well as theories of gesture production.
  • Holler, J., & Wilkin, K. (2011). An experimental investigation of how addressee feedback affects co-speech gestures accompanying speakers’ responses. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 3522-3536. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2011.08.002.

    Abstract

    There is evidence that co-speech gestures communicate information to addressees and that they are often communicatively intended. However, we still know comparatively little about the role of gestures in the actual process of communication. The present study offers a systematic investigation of speakers’ gesture use before and after addressee feedback. The findings show that when speakers responded to addressees’ feedback gesture rate remained constant when this feedback encouraged clarification, elaboration or correction. However, speakers gestured proportionally less often after feedback when providing confirmatory responses. That is, speakers may not be drawing on gesture in response to addressee feedback per se, but particularly with responses that enhance addressees’ understanding. Further, the large majority of speakers’ gestures changed in their form. They tended to be more precise, larger, or more visually prominent after feedback. Some changes in gesture viewpoint were also observed. In addition, we found that speakers used deixis in speech and gaze to increase the salience of gestures occurring in response to feedback. Speakers appear to conceive of gesture as a useful modality in redesigning utterances to make them more accessible to addressees. The findings further our understanding of recipient design and co-speech gestures in face-to-face dialogue.
    Highlights

    ► Gesture rate remains constant in response to addressee feedback when the response aims to correct or clarify understanding. ► But gesture rate decreases when speakers provide confirmatory responses to feedback signalling correct understanding. ► Gestures are more communicative in response to addressee feedback, particularly in terms of precision, size and visual prominence. ► Speakers make gestures in response to addressee feedback more salient by using deictic markers in speech and gaze.
  • Holler, J. (2011). Verhaltenskoordination, Mimikry und sprachbegleitende Gestik in der Interaktion. Psychotherapie - Wissenschaft: Special issue: "Sieh mal, wer da spricht" - der Koerper in der Psychotherapie Teil IV, 1(1), 56-64. Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapie-wissenschaft.info/index.php/psy-wis/article/view/13/65.
  • Kelly, S., Byrne, K., & Holler, J. (2011). Raising the stakes of communication: Evidence for increased gesture production as predicted by the GSA framework. Information, 2(4), 579-593. doi:10.3390/info2040579.

    Abstract

    Theorists of language have argued that co-­speech hand gestures are an
    intentional part of social communication. The present study provides evidence for these
    claims by showing that speakers adjust their gesture use according to their perceived relevance to the audience. Participants were asked to read about items that were and were not useful in a wilderness survival scenario, under the pretense that they would then
    explain (on camera) what they learned to one of two different audiences. For one audience (a group of college students in a dormitory orientation activity), the stakes of successful
    communication were low;; for the other audience (a group of students preparing for a
    rugged camping trip in the mountains), the stakes were high. In their explanations to the camera, participants in the high stakes condition produced three times as many
    representational gestures, and spent three times as much time gesturing, than participants in the low stakes condition. This study extends previous research by showing that the anticipated consequences of one’s communication—namely, the degree to which information may be useful to an intended recipient—influences speakers’ use of gesture.
  • Wilkin, K., & Holler, J. (2011). Speakers’ use of ‘action’ and ‘entity’ gestures with definite and indefinite references. In G. Stam, & M. Ishino (Eds.), Integrating gestures: The interdisciplinary nature of gesture (pp. 293-308). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Abstract

    Common ground is an essential prerequisite for coordination in social interaction, including language use. When referring back to a referent in discourse, this referent is ‘given information’ and therefore in the interactants’ common ground. When a referent is being referred to for the first time, a speaker introduces ‘new information’. The analyses reported here are on gestures that accompany such references when they include definite and indefinite grammatical determiners. The main finding from these analyses is that referents referred to by definite and indefinite articles were equally often accompanied by gesture, but speakers tended to accompany definite references with gestures focusing on action information and indefinite references with gestures focusing on entity information. The findings suggest that speakers use speech and gesture together to design utterances appropriate for speakers with whom they share common ground.

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  • Holler, J. (2010). Speakers’ use of interactive gestures to mark common ground. In S. Kopp, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Gesture in embodied communication and human-computer interaction. 8th International Gesture Workshop, Bielefeld, Germany, 2009; Selected Revised Papers (pp. 11-22). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.
  • Holler, J., Shovelton, H., & Beattie, G. (2009). Do iconic gestures really contribute to the semantic information communicated in face-to-face interaction? Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 33, 73-88.
  • Holler, J., & Wilkin, K. (2009). Communicating common ground: how mutually shared knowledge influences the representation of semantic information in speech and gesture in a narrative task. Language and Cognitive Processes, 24, 267-289.
  • Kidd, E., & Holler, J. (2009). Children’s use of gesture to resolve lexical ambiguity. Developmental Science, 12, 903-913.
  • Holler, J., & Geoffrey, B. (2007). Gesture use in social interaction: how speakers' gestures can reflect listeners' thinking. In L. Mondada (Ed.), On-line Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the International Society of Gesture Studies, Lyon, France 15-18 June 2005.
  • Holler, J., & Stevens, R. (2007). The effect of common ground on how speakers use gesture and speech to represent size information. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 26, 4-27.
  • Stewart, A., Holler, J., & Kidd, E. (2007). Shallow processing of ambiguous pronouns: Evidence for delay. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60, 1680-1696. doi:10.1080/17470210601160807.
  • Holler, J., & Stevens, R. (2006). How speakers represent size information in referential communication for knowing and unknowing recipients. In D. Schlangen, & R. Fernandez (Eds.), Brandial '06 Proceedings of the 10th Workshop on the Semantics and Pragmatics of Dialogue, Potsdam, Germany, September 11-13.
  • Holler, J., & Beattie, G. (2004). The interaction of iconic gesture and speech. In A. Cammurri, & G. Volpe (Eds.), Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 5th International Gesture Workshop, Genova, Italy, 2003; Selected Revised Papers (pp. 63-69). Heidelberg: Springer Verlag.
  • Holler, J., & Beattie, G. (2003). How iconic gestures and speech interact in the representation of meaning: are both aspects really integral to the process? Semiotica, 146, 81-116.
  • Holler, J., & Beattie, G. (2003). Pragmatic aspects of representational gestures: Do speakers use them to clarify verbal ambiguity for the listener? Gesture, 3, 127-154.
  • Holler, J., & Beattie, G. (2002). A micro-analytic investigation of how iconic gestures and speech represent core semantic features in talk. Semiotica, 142, 31-69.

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