Do iconic gestures have a functional role in lexical access? An experimental study of the effects of repeating a verbal message on gesture production

Geoffrey Beattie, Jane Coughlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


In order to determine whether iconic gestures perform a functional role in lexical access, a study was conducted in which subjects (N = 8) read a cartoon story & described it to six different people; it was hypothesized that a lexical item, particularly one of low frequency, being accessed for the first time is more likely to be accompanied by an iconic gesture than if it has been accessed recently by a speaker. An analysis of subjects' transcribed narratives revealed that, contrary to predictions, lexical items that had not yet been accessed were accompanied less often by an iconic gesture; the frequency of iconic gestures did not decrease significantly as subjects repeated their narratives. Although the number of iconic gestures used per word decreased the second time subjects described the story, this was followed by an increase in gesture which remained relatively stable throughout subsequent repetitions of the narratives. It is concluded that iconic gestures do not play an important role in lexical retrieval. 12 Tables, 28 References. J. Paul
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-249
Number of pages29
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1998



  • Psychology

Cite this