Date of Award


First Advisor

Anne O'Dwyer

Second Advisor

Jacob Fossum

Third Advisor

Eden-Renee Hayes


Gestures are a universal form of human expression, often demonstrating a person’s attitude, intentions or their current emotional state. Gestures often provide individuals with much more than the spoken information that is communicated verbally in a social setting. The exact nature or makeup of gestures may be culturally universal, or culturally specific. Culturally universal gestures can aid individuals who wish to communicate with people of differing cultures, as the gestures can give individuals common grounds with which to converse. Additionally, gestures can be indicators of power or indicators of how an individual believes they are perceived by others. Depending upon a person’s social status or identity, their gestures may be interpreted differently by different people. Similarly, multiple people using the same gestures may not be perceived the same way. This thesis analyzes the nature of gestures – facial and bodily gestures – their cultural universality (or not), and their relation to power and intergroup contact. Lastly, gesture plays a role in the field of visual art – as body movement can be the focal point of any given piece. Without words, the easiest way to tell a story is through gesture, and thus contemporary artists utilize gesture in order to give their pieces depth.

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