Filled Pauses and Gestures: It's Not Coincidence

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, Volume 20, Number 1, p.1-20 (1991)




Though filled pauses and gestures frequently accompany speech, their function is not well understood. We suggest that it may be helpful in furthering our knowledge of these phenomena to examine their relationship to each other. To this end, we carried out two studies examining whether they tend to occur together, or to occur at separate times. Both faculty colloquium speakers and undergraduate subjects used filled pauses less frequently when they were gesturing than when they were not gesturing. This effect held for 30 out of 31 subjects. We suggest that detailed theories may be premature, but speculate that gestures may be an indication that the speech production apparatus has completed its search for the next word, phrase or idea and is ready to continue.