Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 327–345 | Cite as

Not All Gestures are Created Equal: The Effects of Typical and Atypical Iconic Gestures on Narrative Comprehension

  • Nicole Dargue
  • Naomi Sweller
Original Paper


Observing hand gestures during learning consistently benefits learners across a variety of tasks. How observation of gestures benefits learning, however, is yet unanswered, and cannot be answered without further understanding which types of gestures aid learning. Specifically, the effects of observing varying types of iconic gestures are yet to be established. Across two studies we examined the role that observing different types of iconic hand gestures has in assisting adult narrative comprehension. Some iconic hand gestures (typical gestures) were produced more frequently than others (atypical gestures). Crucially, observing these different types of gestures during a narrative comprehension task did not provide equal benefit for comprehension. Rather, observing typical gestures significantly enhanced narrative comprehension beyond observing atypical gestures or no gestures. We argue that iconic gestures may be split into separate categories of typical and atypical gestures, which in turn have differential effects on narrative comprehension.


Narrative comprehension Iconic gesture Learning Communication 



Warmest thanks to Laura Eason for narration of the task, and to Alessandra Teunisse and Elizabeth Austin for double-coding the data. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Authors’ Contribution

Nicole Dargue and Naomi Sweller were jointly involved in conceptualising the design of the abovementioned studies. Nicole carried out all data collection and analysis. Both authors approve of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Furthermore, informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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