Macquarie University
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Taking action in hand: effects of gesture observation on action-verb naming

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posted on 2022-03-28, 17:22 authored by Ana Murteira
An extensive body of research suggests a link between action and the mental representation of verbs. Gestures can symbolically represent actions and therefore constitute a bridge between actions and verb processing. This thesis investigates the relationship between meaningful gestures processed in the absence of speech (i.e. pantomimes) and action-verb retrieval. Experiment 1 tested the transparency of a set of gestures in their representation of an action-verb and also investigated possible factors influencing this transparency. Two groups of participants were asked to a) name the action-verb depicted in a pantomime gesture or b) rate the appropriateness of a pantomime gesture in reflecting the meaning of a given verb.Results indicate that, when representing actions, some pantomime gestures clearly map onto a unique action concept, while others are more ambiguous. Pantomime gestures representing actions involving instruments (e.g. hammer) are particularly ambiguous. This ambiguity was, however, attenuated when participants had to judge the appropriateness of a pantomime gesture for representing a verb. In Experiment 2, the pantomime gestures from Experiment 1 were used in a cross-modal priming paradigm, to investigate whether the observation of those pantomime gestures had an effect on subsequent action picture naming. Participants were asked to name (using a verb) an action picture, either preceded by a pantomime gesture representing the depicted action (match condition) or by a pantomime gesture representing another unrelated but meaningful action (mismatch condition). Participants were significantly faster at verb naming, in the match condition. Results were also analysed in light of prime gesture transparency and linguistic factors known to influence verb retrieval (i.e. verb transitivity and instrumentality). The implications of our results in relation to other cross modal priming effects are discussed and some suggestions made about possible mechanisms underpinning the effects of gesture observation in verb retrieval.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Experiment 1 -- Experiment 2 -- General discussion.


Bibliography: pages 61-70 Empirical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Cognitive Science

Department, Centre or School

Department of Cognitive Science

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lyndsey Nickels

Additional Supervisor 1

Paul Sowman


Copyright Ana Murteira 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




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