The Impact Hand Gestures Have on Communication
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
HORNBUCKLE, H. D. & DAKON, S.M. (2002). The Impact Hand Gestures Have on Communication. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 5. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 16, 2017 .

The Impact Hand Gestures Have on Communication
HOLLY D. HORNBUCKLE & SARAH M. DAKON
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
ABSTRACT
This study investigated the impact that hand gestures have on understanding and interpretating communication. There were two groups; one group viewed an informational video with visible hand gestures, and the other group viewed the same video with the exception of the presence of hand gestures. After viewing the video the participants were given a 10-point objective quiz that was designed to test their comprehension of the information provided on the videos. The results, though not significant, did show a slightly higher mean for the group that viewed the video with the presence of hand gestures. Therefore, this study suggests that hand gestures do not have a significant positive effect on the interpretation and understanding of communication. However, more research could be beneficial in drawing conclusions on this issue.

INTRODUCTION
The role of hand gestures in communication has been the focus of numerous psychological studies. Some researchers believe that hand gestures have a positive effect on the communication process, while others researchers believe that they have no effect or that they hinder communication by creating confusion. Other questions that are commonly addressed in current research are: What makes a gesture and how are they interpreted? Krauss (1995) did a study on hand gestures to determine if they help to increase understanding. The results of this study showed that communication accuracy was better than chance when understanding with gestures was present. Other researchers such as Bavelas (2000) believe that nonverbal communication is more than just a physical act, but rather a message model in which the moment-by-moment audible and visible communication acts are treated as a unified whole. In this case, hand gestures become a part of the communication process. Also Kelly (1999) concluded in a study on pragmatic understanding that people are more likely to interpret an utterance as an indirect request when speech is accompanied by a relevant pointing gesture than when speech or gesture was presented alone. These studies suggest that hand gestures play an important role in communication. Hand gestures and speech are both seen as important factors in communication. The lack of either, therefore, will hinder the interpretation and understanding of information. They actually work together in creating a more effective means of communication. The purpose of our study is to show that hand gestures do not hinder communication or cause confusion, but rather they play an important role in communication. In our study we utilized two video tapes; one in which hand gestures were present, and one in which they are absent. The information on the videos will otherwise be the same. The participants were Missouri Western State College students who were currently enrolled in an introductory level psychology class. There were 43 participants in each class and 86 all together. After viewing the video the participants will be asked to take a 10-item objective test. We believe that this study will support our hypothesis that hand gestures do aid in the interpretation and understanding of information. If this is indeed the case, the results should reflect this and the participants who viewed the video with the presence of hand gestures should score higher when tested for the interpretation and understanding of the information provided.


METHOD

PARTICIPANTS
The participants were Missouri Western State College students who were enrolled in an introductory level psychology class. There were two classes, one class viewed an informational video that included hand gestures, and the other class viewed the same video with the exception of the presence of hand gestures. There were 43 participants in each class with a total of 86 participants.

MATERIALS
The conditions in this study consisted of two informational videos. Students in two different introductory level psychology classes viewed the videos. One of the videos utilized hand gestures to relay the information. The other video was shot from the head up and no hand gestures were visible. The two videos were recorded at the same time in order to eliminate any confounding variables such as a difference in the tone of voice or facial expressions.

PROCEDURE
The participants were asked to watch and pay careful attention to the informational video about a fictional character, their life history, and their theory. Immediately after viewing the video a 10-item objective quiz was handed out to each participant. The questions were intended to test the comprehension and retention of the information provided on the video. The participants were given a maximum of ten minutes to complete the test. After the ten-minute period the tests were collected and scored.


RESULTS
An independent t-test was calculated comparing the mean score of the class who viewed the video with the presence of hand gestures and the class that viewed the video without the presence of hand gestures. No significant difference was found (t(84)=1.285, p > .05). The mean of the class who viewed the video with hand gestures (m=6.512, sd=1.804) was not significantly different from the mean of the class who viewed the video without hand gestures (m=6.047, sd=1.542).


DISCUSSION
The results from this study indicate that hand gestures do not have a significant impact on communication. Though the findings suggest that hand gestures are not necessary for effective communication, it is believed that the results may be different with a replication of this study. The results are inconsistent with much of the literature found on the impact of hand gestures on communication. For instance, Krauss (1995) found that communication accuracy was better when gestures were present. Bavelas (2000) believes that hand gestures actually join with speech to make a unified whole. In these studies the results showed that hand gestures do play a very important role in the communication process. A possible limitation of this study is the use of the videos. The use of videos was an effective way of eliminating confounding variables such as difference in tone of voice or facial expression (by taping at the same time), but it may have caused some other confounding variables. It is possible that the participants who viewed the video without the presence of hand gestures processed the information better than was expected because of the close up view that was necessary to eliminate hand gestures on that video. The close up shot may have had an unintentional positive effect on the results for this group, such as the ability to see more detailed facial expressions and possibly better visibility of the mouthing of the words to go along with the voice. Therefore, it was found in this particular study that hand gestures do not have a significant effect on communication, but a replication of the study without the use of the video tapes may bring about different results. For future research the study could be conducted by reading the information aloud in front of the two groups. This would eliminate the confounding variables found in this study and lead to more reliable findings. It is believed that the replication of this study with these adjustments could quite possibly lead to results that support the hypothesis that hand gestures do have a significant impact on communication.


REFERENCES
Bavelas, J.B., Chovil, N. (2000). Visible acts of meaning: An integrated message modelof language in face-to-face dialogue. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 19,163-194. Kelly, S. D., Barr, D.J., Church, R.B., & Lynch, K. (1999). Offering a hand to pragmaticUnderstanding: The role of speech and gesture in comprehension and memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 40, 577-592. Krauss, R. M., Dushay, R. A., Chen, Y., & Rauscher, F. (1995). The communicative value of conversational hand gestures. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 31, 533-552

Submitted 4/30/2002 10:09:47 PM
Last Edited 4/30/2002 10:31:22 PM
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