Do metaphoric gestures influence how a message is perceived? The effects of metaphoric gesture-speech matches and mismatches on semantic communication and social judgment

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Abstract

Considerable evidence has demonstrated that people are not only sensitive to the information contained in concrete imagistic gesture, but furthermore, that they combine this gestural information with the accompanying speech in order to understand the full semantic meaning that a speaker conveys in a message. There is, however, very little experimental evidence concerning how people deal with more abstract metaphoric gestures and whether they extract meaning from these gestures and combine this with the information in the accompanying speech. The two studies reported here investigated this issue by comparing and contrasting the effects of metaphoric gesture-speech matches and mismatches on both semantic communication and social judgment. The studies found that individuals do combine the information contained in metaphoric gestures with that contained in speech and that the meaning of the utterance is demonstrably affected by the presence of a gesture-speech mismatch. The second study found that in messages in which there are gesture-speech mismatches, participants seemed to like the speaker less and were less likely to believe what they said. The implications of these studies for a range of domains, including advertising and politics, are discussed.

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Beattie, G., & Sale, L. (2012, October). Do metaphoric gestures influence how a message is perceived? The effects of metaphoric gesture-speech matches and mismatches on semantic communication and social judgment. Semiotica. https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2012-0067

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