Saturday, April 21, 2012

Better (looking) intonation with just the wave of a hand

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
A new study, summarized by Science Daily, explores why the left side of the face seems more attractive than the right. One explanation offered is that the left side is more emotionally expressive than the right, since that the right hemisphere, which controls the left side of the face, is also more closely associated with emotion. Most thespian logos seem to concur. (Of course, the same does not hold in many cultures for the hands or respective sides of the body.) Earlier posts on the "aesthetics of the visual field," for instance this one or that one, have looked at what it may mean to position or anchor a word or intonation contour in various quadrants of the visual field. There are certainly well documented differences between left and right and upper and "downer." In various studies, the left~right dimension has been characterized with terms such as: cool~hot, soft~rough, stability~change, passive~active, holistic~particulate, analogue~digital, etc. Granted, those are very "rough" generalizations relating to the corresponding brain processing centers. Here is the relevance to HICP work. Intonation contours are performed by the left hand, beginning in the left visual field and then moving over to the right visual field to touch the right hand as the  prominent syllable, word or discourse element is articulated (anchored). We have known for some time that the quality or fluidity and "grace" of the left hand in tracing out the intonation contour of a phrase or clause was a factor but this brings the issue into focus. The character of the pedagogical movement pattern with that hand does much to set up or mirror the emotional and affective mood of the utterance, before the key information is foregrounded. What is also intriguing is that for the observer, the left to right gesture is read in the right eye, which has been shown in many studies--for most people--to be the more emotionally reactive or intense. Express with the left; read and foreground with the right. Wave if you get it . . . (with your left hand, of course!)

2 comments:

Angelina Van Dyke said...

I'm waving with my left hand! However, aren't the intonation patterns ambidextrous? They start on the left, but then the right follows.

Bill Acton said...

All the right hand does is just sit there and wait to be brushed, tapped, slid or jumped over. The right hand's role is to represent and assist in anchoring prominent information in basic work. Later it also situates pitch and volume.

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