Type of gesture, valence, and gaze modulate the influence of gestures on observer's behaviors

Elisa De Stefani, Alessandro Innocenti, Claudio Secchi, Veronica Papa, Maurizio Gentilucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present kinematic study aimed at determining whether the observation of arm/hand gestures performed by conspecifics affected an action apparently unrelated to the gesture (i.e., reaching-grasping). In 3 experiments we examined the influence of different gestures on action kinematics. We also analyzed the effects of words corresponding in meaning to the gestures, on the same action. In Experiment 1, the type of gesture, valence and actor's gaze were the investigated variables Participants executed the action of reaching-grasping after discriminating whether the gestures produced by a conspecific were meaningful or not. The meaningful gestures were request or symbolic and their valence was positive or negative. They were presented by the conspecific either blindfolded or not. In control Experiment 2 we searched for effects of the sole gaze, and, in Experiment 3, the effects of the same characteristics of words corresponding in meaning to the gestures and visually presented by the conspecific. Type of gesture, valence, and gaze influenced the actual action kinematics; these effects were similar, but not the same as those induced by words. We proposed that the signal activated a response which made the actual action faster for negative valence of gesture, whereas for request signals and available gaze, the response interfered with the actual action more than symbolic signals and not available gaze. Finally, we proposed the existence of a common circuit involved in the comprehension of gestures and words and in the activation of consequent responses to them.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA542
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
Publication statusPublished - Sep 5 2013


  • Arm human kinematics
  • Gaze
  • Gesture valence
  • Reaching-grasping
  • Request gestures
  • Symbolic gestures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neurology
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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