Susan Goldin-Meadow: ‘Your hands may reveal your thoughts!’

April 19, 2009

Hands reveal thoughts.

Language researchers say: people should not only listen to words, one should also have an eye for gestures. But what does this really mean?

Take a look at somebody who is making a call. Although, the person on the other side of the line can not see the hands of the speaker, the hands are moving involuntarily and the head nods sometimes along with the words. That is, explains Susan Goldin-Meadow, because voice and gestures relate to one system.


Goldin-Meadow discovered that both of communication tools – voice and gesture – initially develop separately. Baby’s show babbling and fluttering hands, but sound and gesture are not synchrone yet. Synchronicity doesn’t occure untill about eighteen months, when children start using two word phrases. So at the moment when their use of language is getting more complicated, children start using gestures of support. Goldin-Meadow also found that deaf children develop hand gestures spontaneously, even if these hand gestures were not offered by adults.


People should not only listen to words, they should also have an eye for gestures. A hand gesture can represent a word which the speaker may not even think – a circle-motion with the fingers may be used for the word ‘spiral staircase’ – but might also relate to a reflection in full swing. “Hands help us think,” says Goldin-Meadow. In this sense, gestures can play an important role in learning.

Professor Susan Goldin-Meadow (psychologist) says:

“Hands can reveal our thoughts. People express with their hands, what words can not say.”

Dutch source: Handen verraden gedachten [Hands unveil thoughts]


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