Gesture Studies Systematic Review (dataset)



Connecting primate gesture to the evolutionary roots of language: a systematic review

This systematic review describes the current landscape of data available from studies of gestural communication in human and non-human primates that make an explicit connection to language evolution.

In this respository we store the original search results for this systematic review, including 963 publications that underwent abstract screening; and 221 publications that underwent full text review.

We employed the largest time window allowed (1900 to 2019) and used both Web of Science and PsychInfo databases. In PsychINFO the search term ‘gestur*’, AND ‘evolutio*’ OR ‘origin*’, AND ‘languag*’ or ‘communicat*’ was used as a filter in the title (TI), abstract (AB), or keyword (KW). In Web of Science, the same search terms were used as a topic (TS) filter (equivalent to title, abstract and keywords in PsychInfo). The final search string used in Web of Science was: (TS=gestur* AND TS= (languag* OR communicat*) AND TS= (evolutio* OR origin*)).

We included publications in the review if they (a) included data from primates, (b) had gestures as a main focus, (c) make explicit the link between their study and language evolution; and (d) relied on spontaneous communication. We included both journal articles and book chapters. Whole books (as a single ‘unit’) were not included because they typically include a range of differently structured studies, so considering them as their individual chapters was more compatible with the data extraction for journal articles. While all publications had to explore at least gestural signals, we also considered those employing a “multi-source” approach (extracting the information on data from other sources, such as vocalizations, for analysis). We restricted our review of studies on primate gesture to publications that included an explicit reference to the evolution (or origin) of language (or communication). In order to assess the impact of this restriction on the literature returned we ran the same search excluding this requirement.

Our primary exclusion criteria for the publications were (a) publications with abstract, or full text not available; (b) publications written in languages other than English; publications not focused on (c) primates, (d) neuro-typical subjects, (e) gestures, (f) spontaneous communication, (g) publications without empirical data (e.g., theoretical); and (h) not about language evolution. We checked publications according to these criteria in the order described above, and excluded a publication as soon as they failed to fulfil any criterion (although in practice there may have been further additional reasons for their exclusion).

We located 697 publications (692 articles and 5 book chapters) in Web of Science and 464 in PsychINFO (362 articles and 102 book chapters). We removed 198 duplicates, leaving 963 publications, including 862 articles and 101 book chapters; the oldest publication was published in 1975, and the most recent in 2019. Running the same searches but omitting the requirement for evolution/origin of language/communication from the string returned 6440 publications. After abstract screening of the 963 publications, we removed a further 742 publications, leaving 221 publications for full text screening. In the full text screening phase, we excluded a further 58 publications because they did not fit the inclusion criteria. We excluded publications not focused on primates or focused on neuro atypical subjects during the abstract screening phase; however, the language evolution criterion was only applied at the full-text screening phase. Our final dataset included 163 publications (156 articles; 7 book chapters).
Date made available2021

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