Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Your nationality may influence how much you talk with your hands -Dlight News

People of different nationalities appear to vary in their use of hand gestures, according to a study that seems to reinforce the idea that Italians, in particular, “talk with their hands”.

Maria Graziano and her colleague Marianne Gullberg, both at Lund University in Sweden, asked 12 people from Sweden and 12 from Italy to describe a clip from the children’s TV show Pingu to a friend who hadn’t seen it, while examining their gestures.

“Italians do gesture more,” says Graziano on a video call, gesturing emphatically herself, which she puts down to her upbringing in Naples, Italy. In the study, the Italians made an average of 22 gestures per 100 words, compared with the Swedes’ 11.

But more interesting was the difference in the function of the gestures, says Graziano. The Swedes mostly used “representational gestures” to illustrate the events and actions of the story, for example mimicking a rolling pin when describing baking.

The Italians made these motions as well, but also had more “pragmatic gestures” that comment on the story or introduce new information, such as a hand movement to indicate a new character.

This suggests that the two cultures think differently about the way a narrative is produced, says Graziano. Gestures can reflect what cultures deem important about the content and purpose of a story, she says.

Barbara Tversky at Stanford University in California says that exactly why these results occurred is unclear, but they suggest that “cultural conventions of understanding and explaining brief episodes are driving the gestures”. Tversky wants to see further research in larger groups of people with a more diverse mix of nationalities.

Graziano hopes to now study the gestures used in different types of discourse, and with different relationships between the speakers, to shed more light on how various cultures use gestures to communicate and tell a story.

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