Why the spontaneous images created by the hands during talk can help make TV advertisements more effective

GEOFFREY BEATTIE, Heather Shovelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The design of effective communications depends upon an adequate model of the communication process. The traditional model is that speech conveys semantic information and bodily movement conveys information about emotion and interpersonal attitudes. But McNeill (2000) argues that this model is fundamentally wrong and that some bodily movements, namely spontaneous hand movements generated during talk (iconic gestures), are integral to semantic communication. But can we increase the effectiveness of communication using this new theory? Focusing on advertising we found that advertisements in which the message was split between speech and iconic gesture (possible on TV) were significantly more effective than advertisements in which meaning resided purely in speech or language (radio/newspaper). We also found that the significant differences in communicative effectiveness were maintained across five consecutive trials. We compared the communicative power of professionally made TV advertisements in which a spoken message was accompanied either by iconic gestures or by pictorial images, and found the iconic gestures to be more effective. We hypothesized that iconic gestures are so effective because they illustrate and isolate just the core semantic properties of a product. This research suggests that TV advertisements can be made more effective by incorporating iconic gestures with exactly the right temporal and semantic properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue numberPt 1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2005


  • Advertising as Topic
  • Affect
  • Communication
  • Gestures
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Television
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Videotape Recording
  • Visual Perception


Dive into the research topics of 'Why the spontaneous images created by the hands during talk can help make TV advertisements more effective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this