The Influence of Extraneous Sensorimotor Activation on Gesture Production
Miller, Chelsea L. L.
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Gesturing often manifests when speakers need to aid their memory, conceptualization of ideas, or speech fluency. Likewise, gesturing can benefit a listener’s understanding when the gestures reference spatial topics and when they provide information not contained in speech. Because of the widespread presence of gesturing and its possible beneficial consequences in conversation, researchers are interested in the underlying cognitive mechanism as well as ways to influence the process. Previous research suggests that conceptual representations are the basis of gesturing, particularly research comparing differing gestures resulting from cultural differences in conceptual representations. These conceptual representations seem to be sensorimotor in nature. Hostetter and Alibali’s (2008) Gestures as Simulated Action (GSA) framework asserts that sensorimotor activation can be realized as motor output (i.e., gesturing) because language processing is an embodied process. The GSA framework, therefore, suggests that any type of sensorimotor activation that surpasses gesture threshold, even that extraneous to the preconceived communicative plan, should affect gesture production. This study is proposed to determine whether sensorimotor activation extraneous to the target stimuli augments gesture production. Participants (N = 50, 25 women, Mage = 19.5 years) will be recruited to watch a series of videos with key motions going either up or down. Participants will then be asked to describe the video they watched while viewing a display of circles moving either up or down. The amount of gesturing related to the key motion in each video will be measured. Participants should gesture significantly more about the vertical motion during Congruent (i.e., main event and distracting display matching) trials than during Incongruent (i.e., main event and distracting display mismatching) trials.