The Effects of Iconic Gestures and Babble Language on Word Intelligibility in Sentence Context

Wilms, V., Drijvers, L., & Brouwer, S. (2022). The Effects of Iconic Gestures and Babble Language on Word Intelligibility in Sentence Context. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 65, 1822-1838. doi:10.1044/2022\_JSLHR-21-00387.
Purpose:This study investigated to what extent iconic co-speech gestures helpword intelligibility in sentence context in two different linguistic maskers (nativevs. foreign). It was hypothesized that sentence recognition improves with thepresence of iconic co-speech gestures and with foreign compared to nativebabble.Method:Thirty-two native Dutch participants performed a Dutch word recogni-tion task in context in which they were presented with videos in which anactress uttered short Dutch sentences (e.g.,Ze begint te openen,“She starts toopen”). Participants were presented with a total of six audiovisual conditions: nobackground noise (i.e., clear condition) without gesture, no background noise withgesture, French babble without gesture, French babble with gesture, Dutch bab-ble without gesture, and Dutch babble with gesture; and they were asked to typedown what was said by the Dutch actress. The accurate identification of theaction verbs at the end of the target sentences was measured.Results:The results demonstrated that performance on the task was better inthe gesture compared to the nongesture conditions (i.e., gesture enhancementeffect). In addition, performance was better in French babble than in Dutchbabble.Conclusions:Listeners benefit from iconic co-speech gestures during commu-nication and from foreign background speech compared to native. Theseinsights into multimodal communication may be valuable to everyone whoengages in multimodal communication and especially to a public who oftenworks in public places where competing speech is present in the background.
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