The future is in your hands: Can we predict what someone will say next based on their hand gestures?

Yesterday I visited a friend. I just sat down on their couch, when my friend began to ask me, “Would you like to…” From just these words, I didn’t know how the question would end, but I saw that my friend was simultaneously gesturing as if she was drinking something. Because of this, I could already predict that my friend was about to ask if I wanted something to drink and could begin planning my response (I was thirsty, so definitely “yes”!). This way, I could respond quickly and without hesitation to my friend’s question.

Why is responding quickly important in conversation?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we spent a lot of time video calling each other, using apps like Zoom, Skype, and Teams. If your experience was anything like mine, you probably also thought that these interactions felt less satisfying than the real life equivalent. Connection issues meant that people would often freeze or disappear, their speech would sound odd, and you often wouldn’t know when to take your turn to speak. In fact, these connection issues would mean that there were regularly long gaps between the end of one person’s sentence and the beginning of the next person’s. These gaps would leave you wondering if the other person had heard you, most likely prompting you to say something like “Hello? Are you there?”.

Sleep talking: what happens in your brain?

Humans spend the majority of their time communicating: speaking and listening make up to 60% of our day. But did you know that about 66% of people experience talking in their sleep as well? Sleep talking is defined as the production of speech (words and sentences) or vocalisations (mumbles, whispers, and laughs) during sleep. However, if you tell someone that they were sleep talking, they will likely not remember it! In fact, when someone talks during their sleep, they are not really aware of it.