21 Jul 2015

Post-field catchup: "Gesture" articles

After 6 months without internet, I came back to find 174 unread emails from my Google Scholar alerts. I sifted through them all, picking out relevant articles. Now I have a large "To Read" folder to tackle. Since I'm going through them all anyway, it seemed like a good idea to summarise and share them. Here are 5 journal articles about "gesturing" published in the last 6 months. Enjoy!

Canteloup, C., Bovet, D., & Meunier, H. (2015). Intentional gestural communication and discrimination of human attentional states in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Animal Cognition, 875–883.

(Canteloup et al. 2015)
Experimenters trained five rhesus macaques to produce a begging gesture towards food hidden under a container, then tested the effect of an experimenter’s attention on the monkeys’ gesturing. They found that the monkeys gestured more frequently when the experimenter was facing them than when facing in a different direction, but it didn’t matter if the experimenter’s eyes were open or closed. Therefore, rhesus macaques are capable of gesturing intentionally, and probably rely on gross cues of head direction rather than eye direction.

Waller, B. M., Caeiro, C. C., & Davila-Ross, M. (2015). Orangutans modify facial displays depending on recipient attention. PeerJ, 3, e827.

Looking at video footage of spontaneous play for 20 orangutans, researchers coded to examine if play face is affected by the attention of the recipient, which could mean that it’s intentionally (not automatically) produced. They found that orangutans produced the place face for longer when face-to-face than when not, and that the play face was also more complex. This could mean that the play face can be emotionally and intentionally produced, or that at least the orangutans are reacting to more subtle contextual cues.

(Hoetjes et al. 2015)
Hoetjes, M., Krahmer, E., & Swerts, M. (2015). On what happens in gesture when communication is unsuccessful. Speech Communication, 72, 160–175.

Researchers asked human subjects to describe weird objects (“Greebles”) to another person, and forced them to repeat themselves when the communication was unsuccessful. Whether or not the recipient was able to see the subject, they used gestures, although gestures with a visible recipient were larger. When the communication was unsuccessful, the subject reduced the number of words spoken, but used the same number of gestures. This meant that the gesture rate was higher, as was the precision of the gestures.

Scott-Phillips, T. C. (2015). Meaning in animal and human communication. Animal Cognition.

The term “meaning” is loosely used in animal communication research. The author proposes that in animal communication, when looking at the proximate goal of individuals, we need to differentiate between Gricean “natural meaning” and “non-natural meaning”. Natural meaning still affects how the recipient responds, but non-natural meaning is more complex. The signaller has to intend to mean something, but also have to overtly show that they intend it. Current gestural communication studies show intentionality, but not “overt” intentionality.

Bourjade, M., Canteloup, C., Meguerditchian, A., Vauclair, J., & Gaunet, F. (2015). Training experience in gestures affects the display of social gaze in baboons’ communication with a human. Animal Cognition, 18(1), 239–50.

(Bourjade et al. 2015)
To test the intentionality of baboon gestural communication, test baboons were trained to request for food and compared to an untrained control group. The researchers then tested how frequently the baboons alternated gaze between the food and the researcher. There was no difference between trained and untrained baboons in overall frequency of gaze alternation, but trained baboons used gaze alternation alongside gestures much more frequently. This behaviour may show the intentional use of gestures, but training techniques may just have led to superstitious behaviour.

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