Study found responses, answers came more quickly with nonverbal cues

September 22, 2017

FRIDAY, Sept. 22, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Talking with your hands has taken on a new level of importance in communication, researchers report.

They found that hand and body gestures got responses faster when someone asked a question during a conversation.

The researchers analyzed question-and-response sequences as 21 volunteers interacted, and they found a strong link between body gestures such as head and hand signals and questions being asked and answered during the conversations.

The results were published recently in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

"Body signals appear to profoundly influence language processing in interaction," said study leader Judith Holler. She is from Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University Nijmegen, both in the Netherlands.

"Questions accompanied by gestures lead to shorter turn transition times -- that is, to faster responses -- than questions without gestures, and responses come even earlier when gestures end before compared to after the question turn has ended," Holler explained in a journal news release.

Gestures that end early may offer an early visual cue that the speaker is about to end, thus helping the listener to respond faster, she suggested.

Holler added that gestures that don't end early may provide additional information that may help a listener process or predict what is being said in conversation.

The findings "provide a first glimpse of the possible role of the body in the psycholinguistic processes underpinning human communication," Holler said. "They also provide a stepping stone for investigating these processes and mechanisms in much more depth in the future."

More information

Here's more on nonverbal communication from Andrews University.

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