Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chairperson

Vanessa Kahen Johnson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Susan Gans, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lia O'Brien, Ph.D.


The purpose of this project is to examine the frequency of hand gestures used by family triads (mother, father, and emerging adult offspring) engaging in a conflict resolution task. The hypotheses explored in this thesis expand upon previous research by Chu, Meyer, Foulkes, & Kita (2014), which suggested that the frequency of gestures individuals use may be related to their own desire to communicate clearly, while also functioning as a way to ensure that the listener understands the information they are conveying. In addition, the usage of gestures conveys to all parties the level of attention each participant has invested into the conversation. Evidence also seems to suggest that gestures are largely produced for the benefit of the listener, thus rendering gestures as a nonverbal demonstration of empathy on behalf of the speaker. In this way, hand gestures may play an important communicative role during conflict resolution. Hand gestures and other nonverbal communication may also provide a sense of validation and support between individuals, even if they do not agree. In addition, hand gestures are especially present during hostile interactions, when the users feel the need to defend and validate their own opinions. The researchers of this project hypothesize that high gestures usage may either be an indication of an especially cohesive family environment, or an especially hostile environment.