Gestures speed up responses to questions

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.
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.
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