A Black woman giving presentation with left-hand lifted to emphasis a point.

You heard what you … SAW?! 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:

PER-fect timing to per-FECT your presentation skills! You can’t SEE me talking right now – but would you hear my words differently if you could?

Enter Hans Rutger Bosker and David Peeters from the Max Planck Institute. They chose some Dutch words with different stress patterns. For example, Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, versus plateau, an elevated flatland. 

Groups of up to fifty people watched videos of someone speaking the words while making certain hand gestures for communication and emphasis. Another test was audio only. Participants then reported which words they heard in both situations. 

Surprise! People listen with their ears, but ALSO with their EYES! Listeners were eighty percent more likely to hear stressed syllables with the help of hand gestures. Bosker and Peeters believe that this finding can enhance how humans and computers interact.

Hand gestures can be an OB-ject of criticism. But can you ob-JECT to their charm? 

PS: I’m waving at you!

Reference: Bosker, H. R., & Peeters, D. (2021). Beat gestures influence which speech sounds you hear. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288(1943), 20202419. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.2419