A series of experimental studies suggest that co-speech gestures (movements of the arms and hands) enhance listener’s comprehension of a discourse (Iverson & Goldin-Meadow, 2001; McNeill, 1992; McNeil, Alibali & Evans, 2000). In a former study, we investigated the role of co-speech gestures on lip-reading by oral deaf individuals (Vendrame, Cutica & Bucciarelli, 2007). We assumed that in oral-deaf individuals, like in hearing individuals, the gestures accompanying the discourse facilitate the retention of content information and the drawing of correct inferences. Our experimental results confirmed our expectations. Aim of our present investigation is to test, still on an oral deafs population, the prediction that the speaker’s co-speech gestures penalize the retention of the literality of the discourse. In our experiment, thirty-six oral deafs (mean age: 34) attended to a video in which an actor uttered a discourse. Half of the participants were assigned to the Gesture condition and half to the No-Gesture condition. The results confirm our prediction: participants in the Gesture condition were poorer than participants in the No-Gesture condition in retaining the surface form of the text. We conclude that co-speech gestures are a useful support for oral deaf people, but not in the case in which the goal is also to remember the verbatim of the discourse.
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