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Robert Drost, Jay Trobec, Christy Steffke, and Julie Libarkin

Abstract

Televised media is one of the most frequently accessed sources of weather information. The local weathercaster is the link between weather information and the public, and as such weathercaster characteristics, from vocal cadence to physical appearance, can impact viewer understanding. This study considers the role of weathercaster gesturing on viewer attention during weather forecasts. Two variations of a typical weather forecast were viewed by a total of 36 students during an eye tracking session. The first forecast variation contained physical gestures toward forecast text by the newscaster (Gesture condition) while the second variation contained minimal gesturing (No Gesture condition). Following each eye tracking session, students completed a retention survey related to the forecast. These data were used to identify areas of interest to which students attended during viewing and to ascertain how well the forecast was retained across the gesturing treatments. Study results suggest that the weathercaster’s gesturing during forecasts may have induced confusion among participants, but did not affect retention of the weather information investigated in the study. Gesturing diverted attention from other areas of interest within the forecast by encouraging participants to focus on the weathercaster’s hands. This study indicates that minor modifications to weathercaster behavior can produce significant changes in viewer behavior.

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