It's common for people to "talk with their hands" when conversing with others. Now, researchers show that simple hand gestures during face-to-face conversations can have a very direct influence on what people hear. From New Scientist:
[The scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands] presented Dutch participants with videos of [projecrt lead Hans Rutger] Bosker saying Dutch words that have two meanings depending on which syllables are stressed – an example in English would be the difference between object and object. Bosker paired each word with a beat gesture either on the first syllable or the second syllable.
The team found that participants were on average 20 per cent more likely to hear stress on a syllable if there was a beat gesture on it. Mismatched beat gestures also biased what they heard, with 40 per cent of participants hearing the wrong sound.
"The timing of even the simplest hand movement is vital to face-to-face communication," says Bosker. "We've shown how multimodal speech perception really is," he says.
"Beat gestures influence which speech sounds you hear" (Proceedings of the Royal Society B)
image: crop of original by Daniel X. O'Neil (CC BY 2.0)