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Co-speech Gesture Use Across the Life Span


Louise Schubotz

The process of biological and cognitive aging affects language production and comprehension. For example, while speaking, older adults have trouble remembering words more often than younger adults. While listening, they often experience greater difficulties in understanding speech, especially in noisy environments.

To date, very little is known about how older adults exploit iconic gestures when they speak and listen to others. We hypothesise that iconic gestures can facilitate both language production and language comprehension under certain conditions. For example, producing a gesture may help a speaker in retrieving a particular word from memory. Similarly, seeing co-speech gestures can improve language comprehension in adverse listening conditions, for example, at crowded places with lots of background babble.

The aim of this project is to investigate whether and how older adults use co-speech gestures when they communicate information to others, but also whether they benefit from seeing co-speech gestures when they try to understand speech in noise. This project will inform theories of speech and co-speech gesture production and comprehension across the life span.

Max Planck International Research Network on Again (MaxNetAging) doctoral fellowship (2012 - 2015)

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