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Filled Pauses and Gestures: It's Not Coincidence

Nicholas Christenfeld, Stanley Schachter, and Frances Bilous

Though filled pauses and gestures frequently accompany speech, their function is not well understood.  We suggest that it may be helpful in furthering our knowledge of these phenomena to examine their relationship to each other.  To this end, we carried out two studies examining whether they tend to occur together, or to occur at separate times.  Both faculty colloquium speakers and undergraduate subjects used filled pauses less frequently when they were gesturing than when they were not gesturing.   This effect held for 30 out of 31 subjects.  We suggest that detailed theories may be premature, but speculate that gestures may be an indication that the speech production appartus has completed its search for the next word, phrase or idea and is ready to continue.
Christenfeld, N., S. Schachter, & F. Bilous 1991 Filled Pauses and Gestures: It's Not Coincidence. In Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 20/1: 1-20.

Key points relevant to the study of filled pauses


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