The relationship between representational, beat, and cohesive gestures and speech disfluency in the 2012 presidential debate
Hand gestures are yoked to speech in a highly-correlated system, often referred to as co-speech (Hostetter, 2011). Both disfluency and gesture have been show to influence audience reaction during political debates (e.g., Pennebaker, Mehl, & Niederhoffer, 2003). This study examined the relation between speech disfluency and hand gesture in the First 2012 Presidential Debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. Specifically, the frequency and type of speech disfluencies and gesticulations generated by candidates were identified, annotated, and compared. Speech and gesture variables were examined across multiple speech domains, including utterance and speaking turn. Results showed a correlation between the level of speech disfluency and the type of gesture within a set speaking turn for both speakers. Overall, findings suggest 1) associations between speech disfluencies and the five taxonomies of gestures (iconic, metaphoric, deictic, cohesive, and beat, and 2) relationships between variables and audience-reported outcomes for debate success.