Theoretical and Review Articles

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 495-514

First online:

Visible embodiment: Gestures as simulated action

  • Autumn B. HostetterAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison Email author 
  • , Martha W. AlibaliAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Spontaneous gestures that accompany speech are related to both verbal and spatial processes. We argue that gestures emerge from perceptual and motor simulations that underlie embodied language and mental imagery. We first review current thinking about embodied cognition, embodied language, and embodied mental imagery. We then provide evidence that gestures stem from spatial representations and mental images. We then propose the gestures-as-simulated-action framework to explain how gestures might arise from an embodied cognitive system. Finally, we compare this framework with other current models of gesture production, and we briefly outline predictions that derive from the framework.