UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Hand Preference in Adults’ Referential Gestures during Storytelling: Testing for Effects of Bilingualism, Language Ability, Sex and Age Nicoladis, Elena; Shirazi, Safi


Previous studies have shown that gestures are mediated by the left hemisphere. The primary purpose of this study was to test whether most gestures are also asymmetrical, i.e., produced with the right hand. We also tested four predictors of the degree of right-hand gesture use: bilingualism, language ability, sex, and age. These factors have been related to differences in the degree of language lateralization. English monolinguals, French–English bilinguals, and French monolinguals watched a cartoon and told the story back. For the gestures they produced while speaking, we calculated the percentage produced with the right hand. As predicted, the majority of gestures were right-handed (60%). Bilingualism, language ability, and age were not significantly related to hand choice in either English or French. In English, males tended to produce more right-handed gestures than females. These results raise doubts as to whether hand preference in gestures reflects speech lateralization. We discuss possible alternative explanations for a right-hand preference.

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CC BY 4.0