The importance of visual control and biomechanics in the regulation of gesture-speech synchrony for an individual deprived of proprioceptive feedback of body position.
Pouw, W., Harrison, S. J., & Dixon, J. A.
The importance of visual control and biomechanics in the regulation of gesture-speech synchrony for an individual deprived of proprioceptive feedback of body position. Scientific Reports, 12
: 14775. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-18300-x.
Do communicative actions such as gestures fundamentally differ in their control mechanisms from other actions? Evidence for such fundamental differences comes from a classic gesture-speech coordination experiment performed with a person (IW) with deafferentation (McNeill, 2005). Although IW has lost both his primary source of information about body position (i.e., proprioception) and discriminative touch from the neck down, his gesture-speech coordination has been reported to be largely unaffected, even if his vision is blocked. This is surprising because, without vision, his object-directed actions almost completely break down. We examine the hypothesis that IW’s gesture-speech coordination is supported by the biomechanical effects of gesturing on head posture and speech. We find that when vision is blocked, there are micro-scale increases in gesture-speech timing variability, consistent with IW’s reported experience that gesturing is difficult without vision. Supporting the hypothesis that IW exploits biomechanical consequences of the act of gesturing, we find that: (1) gestures with larger physical impulses co-occur with greater head movement, (2) gesture-speech synchrony relates to larger gesture-concurrent head movements (i.e. for bimanual gestures), (3) when vision is blocked, gestures generate more physical impulse, and (4) moments of acoustic prominence couple more with peaks of physical impulse when vision is blocked. It can be concluded that IW’s gesturing ability is not based on a specialized language-based feedforward control as originally concluded from previous research, but is still dependent on a varied means of recurrent feedback from the body.