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Volume 2 Issue 1 (March 1999), Pages 1-113

Gestures convey substantive information about a child’s thoughts to ordinary listeners (pages 67-74)

The gestures that spontaneously occur in communicative contexts have been shown to offer insight into a child’s thoughts. The information gesture conveys about what is on a child’s mind will, of course, only be accessible to a communication partner if that partner can interpret gesture. Adults were asked to observe a series of children who participated ‘live’ in a set of conservation tasks and gestured spontaneously while performing the tasks. Adults were able to glean substantive information from the children’s gestures, information that was not found anywhere in their speech. ‘Gesture‐reading’ did, however, have a cost – if gesture conveyed different information from speech, it hindered the listener’s ability to identify the message in speech. Thus, ordinary listeners can and do extract information from a child’s gestures, even gestures that are unedited and fleeting.

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