How To: Use Hand Gestures When You Talk to Appear Smarter Than You Really Are

Use Hand Gestures When You Talk to Appear Smarter Than You Really Are

Like most people, you probably use hand gestures when you talk, whether you wave your hands excitedly when discussing the latest episode of Game of Thrones or smack the back of your hand as you rattle off points during an argument. As your speech teacher probably told you, gesturing while talking is a great reinforcement tool—when used appropriately, of course.

The Backhand Slap reinforces important ideas. Image via A Glossary of Gestures for Critical Discussion

While students at Goldsmiths College, Jasmine Johnson and Alice May Williams discovered that their professors all used a series of identical hand gestures when teaching. The motions were so common in class that Johnson and Williams decided to categorize them and explore what led professors to use these specific gestures.

It turns out the hand motions observed by the duo occur throughout the world of academia, regardless of the college or locale. Professors use 9 different gestures for repeatedly to explain concepts and reinforce material when instructing. Most importantly, the gestures are designated for class conversations, in which students analyze and dissect information.

But what is it that makes these hand gestures "smarter" than others? The moves are familiar to all of us, but it's the setting in which we first saw them that impacts our perception. Because they are commonly used in the classroom, we associate these particular hand gestures with intelligence and intellectual discussion. We are able to recall (subconsciously, of course) that these moves were used to help analyze and explain ideas. If someone performs the "Shelf Sweep," as pictured below, we categorize them as well-read, knowledgeable.

Toss in a Shelf Sweep when discussing order and hierarchy to really make a point. Image via A Glossary of Gestures for Critical Discussion

As a result, when these hand gestures are used in everyday conversation, they lead others to perceive you as an intellectual.

Check out the full catalog of movements on Johnson and Williams' website. The next time you want to show your smarts, break out a few of these hand gestures. They might even make you the most "intelligent" person in the room.

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