Influencing others through gestures: misleading eyewitnesses

April 24, 2012

Gestures made during interviews can influence or even misinform eyewitnesses. In addition, eyewitnesses are unlikely to recall the influential gestures being shown to them, new research from the University of Hertfordshire suggests. These findings are being presented this week at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference.

Dr Daniel Gurney, from the University of Hertfordshire, interviewed 90 people about the contents of a video they had watched. During the interviews, the researcher deliberately performed misleading hand gestures to suggest inaccurate information about the detail in the video. These hand gestures included chin stroking to suggest someone had a beard. Although the man in the video did not have a beard, Dr Gurney found that the interviewees were three times more likely to recall seeing a beard when one was gestured to them, than those who were not gestured to. Other hand gestures used in the research included touching a (to suggest a ring), grasping a wrist (to suggest a watch) and pretending to pull on gloves. All of these gestures implied details that did not actually appear in the video and the results were similar to those with the about the beard.

Dr Gurney said: “A lot of research has showed that eyewitnesses can be influenced by misleading questions, but this research shows that gestures can also mislead, and sometimes without eyewitnesses even realising. For those professionals in the police, legal and other sensitive areas of work where questioning and recall of detail is important, we need to make sure the significance of is fully taken on board.”

Explore further: Operating a computer by gesture only

Related Stories

Operating a computer by gesture only

March 12, 2010

Operating computers without touching them, using only hand and arm gestures: it sounds futuristic, but it's already possible. Researcher Wim Fikkert of the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology of the University ...

Hand movements challenge computer mouse

June 1, 2006

The computer mouse could become a thing of the past and hand gestures a thing of the future if Los Angeles-based G-speak has its way, a report said.

Gestures provide a helping hand in problem solving

February 1, 2011

Talking with your hands can trigger mental images that help solve complex problems relating to spatial visualization, an important skill for both students and professionals, according to new research published by the American ...

Recommended for you

Fish fossils reveal how tails evolved

December 5, 2016

Despite their obvious physical differences, elephants, lizards and trout all have something in common. They possess elongated, flexible structures at the rear of their bodies that we call tails. But a new study by a University ...

Evaluation of scientific rigor in animal research

December 2, 2016

The "reproducibility crisis" in biomedical research has led to questions about the scientific rigor in animal research, and thus the ethical justification of animal experiments. In research publishing in the Open Access journals ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.