Gesture in Experimental Studies: How Videotape Technology Can Advance Psychological Theory

Eliza L. Congdon*, Miriam A. Novack, Susan Goldin-Meadow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Video recording technology allows for the discovery of psychological phenomena that might otherwise go unnoticed. We focus here on gesture as an example of such a phenomenon. Gestures are movements of the hands or body that people spontaneously produce while speaking or thinking through a difficult problem. Despite their ubiquity, speakers are not always aware that they are gesturing, and listeners are not always aware that they are observing gesture. We review how video technology has facilitated major insights within the field of gesture research by allowing researchers to capture, quantify, and better understand these transient movements. We propose that gesture, which can be easily missed if it is not a researcher’s focus, has the potential to affect thinking and learning in the people who produce it, as well as in the people who observe it, and that it can alter the communicative context of an experiment or social interaction. Finally, we discuss the challenges of using video technology to capture gesture in psychological studies, and we discuss opportunities and suggestions for making use of this rich source of information both within the field of developmental psychology and within the field of organizational psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-499
Number of pages11
JournalOrganizational Research Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • best practices
  • coding system
  • gesture
  • participant observation
  • reliability
  • video recording technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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