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Cracking the Nonverbal Code: Intercultural Competence and Gesture Recognition Across Cultures

The purpose of this set of studies was to assess whether the ability to distinguish between real and fake gestures in a foreign setting is positively associated with cultural adjustment to that setting. To do so, we created an original videotaped measure of gesture recognition accuracy (the GRT). Study 1 (n = 508) found positive associations between performance on the GRT and length of stay in the foreign setting and between GRT performance and self-reported intercultural communication competence. Study 2 (n = 60) replicated the positive association between GRT performance and self-reported intercultural communication competence. It also found a positive association between GRT performance and external perceptions of intercultural communication competence and motivation as rated by observers native to the new cultural setting. Together, findings from the two studies highlight the importance of gesture recognition in the cultural adaptation process and the potential of the GRT measure as a useful assessment tool.