Why do we move our hands when we speak?

If you need to describe something very big, you will surely instinctively make the big gesture with your hand. “Humans are very gestural beings,” says Dr. Gillian Forester. She is an evolutionary and developmental psychologist at the Birkbeck School, University of London. It helps to unravel a secret. Why do we move our hands when we speak?

Why do we move our hands when we speak?  It's not just about explaining better to others.
Why do we move our hands when we speak? It’s not just about explaining better to others.
Hand and mouth

“The parts of the brain that control the hands and mouth overlap a lot,” he explains. When we speak, we tend to use our hands. And when the hands are busy, sometimes the mouth interferes. That is why we sometimes stick our tongues out when we are concentrating on the handicraft. There are several hypotheses for this. Among other things, this gesture indicates that we are busy and do not want any interruptions.

And why do we even move our hands when talking on the phone? “I have an even more striking example,” said Susan Goldin-Meadow. It belongs to the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. “There are people who are blind from birth who make gestures when speaking. They have never seen anyone move their hands and yet they gesticulate when they speak. This is because it helps organize your own thoughts.

Why do we move our hands when we speak? Not just for you to understand. But also to understand yourself. And it can reveal something fascinating: what we’re going to learn. There are different types of hand gestures, Goldin-Meadow explained.

The iconic ones are illustrative. For example, when you are talking about something big and you open your arms. The rhythmic ones to emphasize something we are saying. Or the emblematic ones that can replace words. Like the movement you make with your hand to say hello or goodbye.

Spontaneous gestures

«We are more interested in the spontaneous. They tell us more about what someone thinks, ”said the psychologist. It says icons show what you think … but they don’t always match what you say.

“When you talk about a large object, you make the gesture to show that it is large, but sometimes we see other gestures.” They saw these discrepancies in experiments with children of learning age. Those who made the ‘wrong’ gesture were “more open to instructions on a task than those who only produced coincidences in gestures and language”.

There is much more to our gestures than a communicative element.  We get along better.
There is much more to our gestures than a communicative element. We get along better.
Test gestures

They did an experiment. They showed the children two identical containers with the same amount of water. When asked if they had the same amount of water, they answered yes.

Then they poured the water from one of the tall, thin containers into a lower, wider one. They asked if the amounts were the same or different.

“Children under the age of 7 answer, ‘It’s different because this is higher than this,’ and they make the gesture of stop and then of low. “But other children say, ‘It’s different because this one is higher than this,’ but they make the gesture of height and width. And they are most likely to benefit from the knowledge that we impart to them.

“We think it’s because they know a little more. You know the breadth, you have recognized it … but you can’t talk about it yet.

“They are gestures that can capture information that is not yet accessible to language,” says Goldin-Meadow.

“It really is a knowledge that you have encapsulated in your hands.”

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