Psychologists assert that the use of gestures in conversation helps to express thoughts more effectively. Hand gestures are a powerful aspect of communication, with studies of TED Talks speakers showing the more avid and popular speakers use an average of about 465 hand gestures, which is nearly twice as many as less popular speakers. Similarly, it was found that people who talk with their hands are often viewed as warm, agreeable and energetic. On the other hand, people who are less animated are viewed as logical, cold and analytical.
Gesture is really linked to speech, and gesturing while you talk can really power up your thinking,” Kinsey Goman said. “Gesturing can help people form clearer thoughts, speak in tighter sentences and use more declarative language.
Broca’s area is a part of the brain connected to speech production, which is also active when we wave our hands and is somewhat responsible for the communicative intent in our gestures. We gain information from other people through both verbal speech and body language. Hand gestures often highlight when someone is making an important point. These gestures are processed by the receiver at a subconscious level where they are not even aware of the connection, however they can sense when the speaker is more passionate as their gestures are larger and more animated, and they look more enthusiastic. We see this mainly because body language plays an essential role in communicating our emotions and motivations to other people. Gestures also work as a second language, as they provide us with information is not always present in our speech.
We have an emotion, our body responds, and then we speak,” Kinsey Goman said. “The body responds first. What is really being communicated is the underlying emotion and motivation — how you’re really feeling about something.
Children’s use of hand gestures can also serve as a predictor of strong vocabulary development, sentence structure and storytelling later in life as highlighted in a study published last year in the Journal of Child Language.
For the study, researchers asked 6-year-olds to relay what was happening in a cartoon. They asked the children to repeat the task when they were 7, and again when they were 8. The children’s ability to structure a narrative improved over this time period — and children who had expressed a character’s viewpoint using hand gestures at age 5 were more likely to tell better-structured stories later in childhood.
For the most part our hand movements match our speech to convey a point; however, this is not always true. A “Gesture-speech mismatch” occurs when a message conveyed with our hands does not match up with our verbal speech. Psychologist Dr. Susan Golden-Meadow stated that depending on age, gestural mismatches could be a sign that a person is learning.
Children who produce gesture-speech mismatches on a task may have information relevant to solving the task literally at their fingertips and could, as a result, be on the cusp of learning how to solve that task,” according to University of Chicago psychologist Dr. Susan Golden-Meadow as stated in a 2006 paper published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.
These sorts of discrepancies in adults however are perceived differently, with studies suggesting that others are less likely to trust adults whose gestures and words do not seem to match.