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Gesturing with your hands can make your words more memorable, new research suggests 

Searching for a way to make your point? Then look no further than your hands.

Gestures such as slicing the air or waving can make what we are saying more memorable, according to scientists.

It may explain politicians’ annoying habit of making chopping motions to emphasise words in their speeches – and why people in some countries such as Italy tend to gesticulate when they speak.

Scientists suggest gestures such as slicing the air or waving can make what we are saying more memorable

The research shows gestures can affect the sounds people hear, for example making vowels seem longer.

So waving while saying ‘bit’ could make it sound more like ‘beat’. And a vigorous hand movement could make ‘code’ sound more like ‘coat’, according to the scientists from Germany’s Max Planck Institute.

Writing in the Royal Society Journal, they said chopping motions – known as beat gestures – ‘feature prominently in politicians’ public speeches’ and may help to make what they say more memorable by stressing the important words.

Their study involved playing people videos of a man speaking with his face blurred out and his right arm moving to emphasise different syllables. 

It may explain politicians’ annoying habit of making chopping motions to emphasise words in their speeches. Pictured: Boris Johnson

They wrote: ‘Beat gestures... influence the perception of individual speech sounds.’

They add that listening involves taking in auditory and visual information ‘to make a well-informed best guess of what specific message a speaker is intending to communicate’.

They say that practical implications are that speech recognition systems may be improved by including looking at hand signals and that computer figures, when speaking, would benefit from animated hand gestures along with computer generated sounds.

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