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Talk to the hand! Gesticulating while speaking actually makes your voice louder, study reveals

Talk to the hand! Gesticulating while speaking actually makes your voice louder, study reveals

  • Researchers at the University of Connecticut studied the effect of talking with hands
  • Gestures change the size and shape of the chest and affect a person’s speech
  • James Dixon says some language researchers ‘don’t like the idea’

Gestures while speaking or ‘talking with your hands’ actually make the voice louder, researchers have found.

Anyone who uses their arms and hands during a conversation amplifies their voice and amplifies the volume.

A new study examining the use of gestures suggested that changing the size and shape of the chest affects a person’s speech.

The use of such gestures with the hands when speaking has long been a common human behavior and has become synonymous with certain cultures.

Gestures while speaking or 'talking with your hands' actually make the voice louder, researchers have found. In the photo: Peter Capaldi as Malcom Tucker in The BBC's Thick Of It

Gestures while speaking or ‘talking with your hands’ actually make the voice louder, researchers have found. In the photo: Peter Capaldi as Malcom Tucker in The BBC’s Thick Of It

But experts still don’t know why people use their limbs to accentuate verbal communication.

Now scientists say that while this type of body language emphasizes speech, it is not the way researchers first thought.

Many communication researchers believe that gestures are made to emphasize important points or to clarify specific ideas.

But there are other possibilities, which researchers say could demonstrate that by changing the size and shape of the chest, lungs, and vocal muscles, they affect the sound of a person’s speech.

Gesture use research suggested that changing the size and shape of the chest affects a person's speech. Pictured: Sofia Vergara in The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on May 21, 2020

Gesture use research suggested that changing the size and shape of the chest affects a person's speech. Pictured: Sofia Vergara in The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on May 21, 2020

Gesture use research suggested that changing the size and shape of the chest affects a person’s speech. Pictured: Sofia Vergara in The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on May 21, 2020

A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut led by former postdoctoral researcher Wim Pouw – currently at Radboud University in the Netherlands – decided to test whether this idea was true.

The team allowed volunteers to move their dominant hand as if they were chopping wood, constantly saying ‘a’ as in ‘cinema’.

They were instructed to keep the ‘a’ sound as stable as possible.

Despite that instruction, they discovered that the listener could hear the speaker’s gestures when the team played audio recordings for other people.

When the listener was asked to move their arms to the beat, their movements were perfectly in line with those of the original speaker.

Pictured: President George Bush gestures during comments on border security and immigration reform at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 2005

Pictured: President George Bush gestures during comments on border security and immigration reform at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 2005

Pictured: President George Bush gestures during comments on border security and immigration reform at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in 2005

Due to the way the human body is constructed, hand movements affect the trunk and throat muscles, and gestures are closely associated with amplitude.

Rather than just using the chest muscles to produce airflow for speech, moving your arms while you speak can add an acoustic emphasis. And you can hear someone’s movements, even if they try not to let you do that, researchers said.

James Dixon, one of the authors of the paper and UConn psychologist and director of the Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action, said, “Some language researchers don’t like this idea because they want language to be just about communicating of the contents of your mind, rather than the state of your body.

“But we think that gestures allow the acoustic signal to contain additional information about physical tension and movement. It is information of a different kind. ‘

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