Gesturing while speaking - why?

It seems that most, if not all people, gesture with their hands when they are speaking to someone. Is there a metaphysical/psychological explanation for this?

Think about why we invented emoticons for online communications? You need to convey more than just words. I suspect the same is true for verbal communication, tone and inflection add information, but facial expressions, hand/arm gestures, and body language add even more.

Of course it is possible to convey exact meaning in words, but in casual or even formal conversation, gestures allow you to add emphasis, etc.

Studies have shown (no cite, take it FWIW) that the words alone convey less than half of the information in a conversation. Gestures and tone of voice convey a lot of the information needed to get the whole message across.

What I can’t figure out is why people gesture when they’re talking on the phone. . .

93% of communication is non verbal ie we rely on body language (gesture & posture) and intonation more than the actual words we hear (in fact the human brain can’t actually process as many sounds per second as it can produce - please don’t ask for a cite this is from a language teaching course I took years ago and I’m not sure I could dig out my notes).

Gesture came before language - you only have to look at some of the animals we come into contact with a horses ears can show interest or agression, a dog can ask you to play or submit, a cat welcome you with her tail … and we ‘know’ what they mean. Pre language humans gestured.

While it is true some cultures gesture more than others we all do it (Japanese are very atuned to nuances of body language rathe than expansive gestures while Italians have specific gestures which replace can convey a phrase) it helps to get our message across. Gesturing on the phone ? It can’t be helped.

Exactly. Simply put, we communicate with our entire bodies, rather than just with our speech. While talking on the phone, you become intent on the conversation and don’t notice that you’re using the “punctuation” of gestures. It’s automatic. In a way, words are one of the least important aspects of communication. Through gestures, I can make my words take on a completely opposite meaning, or make myself understood to someone who doesn’t speak my language.

I’m sure you’ve said to a friend, “Man, you’re such a dummy!” at one point or another, but unless you were angry, you probably said it with a smile, and a pat on the back, or a “dismissive” wave of the hand which takes the seriousness from the words.

Or, say to your dog with a big smile, “You’re such a bad dog! You’re the worst dog in the world!” and he’ll probably wag his tail. Not speaking English, he has become attuned to tone, gestures, facial expression and body language.

This body language is so subconcious that often it reveals more than we wish. When my husband was an investigator, he could usually tell when the subject was lying, just by watching him carefully and reading what his expressions and body language said. (Few people are really good liars. Most just don’t get enough practice.)