A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Search results: "garfield"

Latest Garfield Gestures


Are there ever enough posts about Garfield’s gestures?

Whoever thinks gestures are not like words should be forced to read through half a year of Garfield comics 🙂

Even more Garfield Gesture

Browsing through Garfield comics always make me smile, partly because of the nice gestures Jim Davis draws to convey Garfield’s communication.

  • Cheer with two arms in the air
  • Two hands wringing together in joyous glee
  • Garfield and Odie point Jon to his proper place in the universe; Jon makes a ‘Bah’ gesture
  • Jon reinforces a self-reference with a thumb point
  • Odie whistles innocently
  • Silent triadic communication between Garfield, A Nightmarish Remote Control, and his friend the Garage Door Opener

And here is an old but nice story about a woman sueing a fast food restaurant that gave her kid a Garfield toy that appears to be giving the finger.

Toy Garfield giving the finger

Toy Garfield giving the finger

Funnily, a spokesperson for the restaurant defends as follows:

“It is Garfield’s paw, people should not read anymore into it. Garfield is a cartoon cat that doesn’t have fingers but paws.”

Well, I beg to differ…

Earlier lists: here, here, and here. Or just search for Garfield in the search box.

Some more Garfield gestures

A pleasurable pastime it is. Browsing through Garfield comics and smiling at the nice gestures Jim Davis draws to convey Garfield’s communication. I created a couple of lists ealier (here and here), and here is another list:

Polite palm out point & reproach with arms on hip
Here’s me! arms wide & reproach with arms on hip
Thumb pointing backward
Challenging grin
Jon’s angry glance and Garfield’s defensive point

Golden Oldie: Garfield & the Waving Snowman

Boy, I have been looking for this cartoon for two and a half years (off and on, that is, see here). So, a big thanks to diamond-blade for pointing out the link.

Garfield and the Waving Snowman
It was the Garfield daily comic from February 27, 2005 (source)

The reason why I like this comic so much (besides my general fascination for the gestures in Garfield, see these posts) is that it is a wonderful illustration of an idea that I would love to test experimentally. The idea is that certain movements (i.e. having certain kinematic characteristics) might automatically trigger the perception of a gesture (in the sense of a movement that is intended to communicate). This idea is not new and was, for example, described by Adam Kendon in his 2004 book ‘Gesture. Visible action as utterance’. But this idea is also present, to some extent, in the work of Gunnar Johansson (1973) and Albert Michotte.

Prelimary ideas about experiments:

  • Generate a randomized display of motion (within some likely parameter space) and let people all watch that same fragment, then check if they see a gesture at the same time.
  • Condition: Manipulate it in such a way that it is easier or harder to imagine seeing a hand.
  • Condition: Create conditions where subjects feel it is likely or unlikely they will be insulted (perception of intention to communicate appears linked to sensitivity to insults, see my thesis or Bucci et al. 2008).

Garfield Gestures More

A wrote about the gestures I saw Garfield (and Jon) make in six months of their comic a while ago. It is now the single most popular page on this site. So, I decided to browse the ones from April 2006 to now as well. (done till May 27)

Garfield showing many gestures

‘Real’ Pointing point-caught-in-action point-rude point-focus-attention point-accusation
Index-finger-up point-index-up-attention 2 3 making-a-point 2 announcement
Palm-presenting p-p-classic-triad palm-presenting-2hands-out 2 3 4
Palm-down Affectionate-granting-dismissal-wave
Palm-out 2hands-imploring-heaven 2hands-up-alert palm-out-hold-it 2 2arms-out-inspecting-self
Smile-Grin grin 2 3 4 5 6 hee-hee-laughing (and many regular smiles I just let go)
Cheer Yes!-Fist-Driving 2-Fists-high-cheer
Looks angry-look-threat eyes-wide-expectation 2 3 4 5 6 7 look-of-exasperation
Thoughtful poses lip-touch-doubt 2 3 4 arms-folded-disinterested 2 3 4 5 6 hand-chin-dreamy
Other tap-shoulder-attention elbow-stick-out-demanding guard-face-nasty grab-shirt-threat stick-tongue-out 2 sneak-around pat-comfort hide-speech-behind-hand 2 cough-for-attention amplify-speech-1h-by-mouth yawn-boring 2 dancing 1h-ear-listening

Others: palm-presenting-triad point-rude stare-into-distance shrug big-grin hands-up-in-shock-and-cover-mouth lip-touch-doubt scratch-head-wonder 2arms-wide-out-welcome thumb-up

Garfield gestures

I browsed through half a year of daily Garfield comics (20 April 2006 – 20 Sep 2005) to mark the gestures they feature. It was a fun and interesting exercise. I know of no comic where the gestures are so true to life.

Source Garfield.com

Index-finger-up Making a Point 2 3 4 Getting the point Got-it Claiming-for-oneself Announcement 2 3 4 5 6 Attend-my-request 2 3 Hang-on Pull-my-finger? Mark-my-words
‘Real’ Pointing Index-point 2 3 4 Thumb-point-self 2 3 4 Accuse-point Center-attention 2 3 Point-at-body-location-self-stand-in 2 Point-at-body-location
Palm-presenting Triad-presenting-vertical-palm 2 3 Triad-presenting-palm-up/vertical 2 3
Triad-presenting-concept-2hands-out/spread-wide 2 3 Repeat-apology-1h-horizontal Triad-presenting-self-2hands-spread Presenting-grandiose-thought Center-Attention-2H-downwards
Palm-down 2hands-keep-it-down Affectionate-granting-dismissal-wave 2 Dismissal-next-subject-1h Small-horizontal-1h-you-wait
Palm-out Ooh-Admire-2h-out Welcome-cheer-2h-spread Pick-me-up Happy-surprise-palms-up Look-no-hands Get-ready-for-this-2hands-palms-out Scream-1h-palm-up Implore-Heaven-2h 2
Greeting Salute-1h-palm-out-show Wave-bye-1h-finger-wiggle
Give-me Gimme-2hands-reach Give-me-1hand-request Reach-tentative-pinky
Smile-Grin Big-Grin 2 Grin-smug 2 3 4 Grin-subtle-joke Schadenfreude-grin Tease-Grin
Cheer Big-Cheer-2Fists-Victory 2 Cheer-mime-honk-1fist Subdued-cheer-elbows-out Cheer-on-1fist-high 1fist-air-yeah
Other Puzzled/baffled-lip-touch 2 3 4 5 6 Thinking-lip-touch 2 3 4 5 Lip-pout 2
Threaten-to-claw 2 Looking-cool Pat-pat Pat-belly Clench-fists Eyes-rolling Table-Drum Elbows-out-dominance 2 Fist-forward-action-now Angry-shout Disappear Exasperation-face Amplify-hearing-it 2 Lock-hands-contemplate 2 Yawn 2 Frame-Picture Glare Mime-inhaling-1nostril Depressed-face Thumb-up-Good 2 Disgusted-face Shock-face Amplify-speech-1h-by-mouth 2 3 4 Flex-biceps-strong Brush-hair-smug Frantic-waving Yes!-Fist-Driving Cover-Eyes-Shame 2 Making-me-sick-finger-throat Pose-confident-yo!-snap-finger

Gesture Definitions

I am going to try and coin some definitions regarding gestures.

A gesture is any act, except speech, by which we intend to communicate something beyond the act itself

This definition includes all normal gestures, that have meaning (the message that was communicated intentionally) because of cultural conventions (including languages) or iconicity, and all such acts (like giving flowers) that serve, mostly through context, as bearers of an additional meaning (like an apology). Speech is viewed as basically the same type of behavior (it fits the definition), but speech is given an exceptional status because of its importance and because it has certain characteristics that set it apart from other gestures. Excluded are all acts which either do not communicate anything (for example because the actor is not aware of an observer) or which only communicate themselves to an observer (”[look at me,] I am fishing/reading/sleeping/walking”).

I further wish to emphase the difference between normal, straightforward gestures and those acts that serve some other purpose in the first instance and only serve as gestures (or rather ‘gestures of something‘) in the second instance like the example of giving flowers to apologize. If I wish to distinguish between these different gestures I will add the term ’simple’ to the first category and ‘complex’ to the second category.

A gesture-simple is a gesture where the (sole) purpose of the act is to communicate

A gesture-complex is first some action but communicates an additional message in the second instance

I tried to find better words to express what I mean, but it’s the best I could come up with so far (it has been brewing for about a year, see one of my first posts).

Note that any gesture-simple may also be a gesture-complex (even a speech act can be a gesture-complex). I tried to explain this with this example of Pee Wee Reese standing by Jackie Robinson in the face of racist fan-abuse. The shoulder embrace was both a gesture-simple and a gesture-complex.

Pee Wee Rise
The gesture that touched a nation (source)

There are important reasons for making these distinctions (but I forgot them :-) ). Well, at least it will allow me (and maybe you) to better analyze observations of gesture. And perhaps it is necessary to be precise if you want to make statements about gestures. For example, I think that people can typically see that a movement is a gesture-simple from just its appearance but this is not true for a gesture-complex. I think that people easily miss that an action was intended as a gesture-complex or, vice versa, see/read too much in what was just some action, for example in this cartoon from Garfield:

Jon misreads Garfield's intentions
Jon mistakes Garfield’s intentions (source)

Let us see how far these definitions can take us.
Or does anyone have better suggestions?

And a final wild speculation: Women are not able to see a man’s action as just that action but are always convinced it is some gesture-complex (if we do not bring flowers we do not care, if we do bring flowers we have something to apologize for [but we just thought they would be nice on the table]). Men conversely tend to miss most of the complex gestures made by women (when they wear something nice and new to show their appreciation of some event for example). Any takers?

If it has hands it can wave

Sometimes I am such a proud daddy. The other day my little boy Rik, age 2, contributed to science with the following insightful analysis:

Scene: The Kitchen. Dad is clearing off the table. Enter Rik holding his big cuddly Snoopy dog by his hands. Rik: “Daddy?” [holds up Snoopy for inspection] Dad: “Yes?” Rik: “Snoopy has hands. He can say ‘bye’ with ’em.” Dad: “Yes, that is true.” Rik clutches Snoopy’s hand and waves ‘bye!’. Exit Rik, exit Snoopy. 

Look daddy, hands! (source)

I was enthralled. My boy is a genius! This little peek into a toddler’s still firm grasp of the world showed me what may be an essential piece of the puzzle: A wave is a wave because it is made with a waving hand. In other words, if something does not have hands it can not wave. Or rather, we can imagine seeing a wave only if we can imagine seeing hands at the same time. That seems to me to be a fairly useful prediction. Rik produced his first falsifiable hypothesis!

It pulls back an old Garfield cartoon into my memory. It features a snowman that may or may not be seen as waving. Garfield slaps the twig that serves as his arm and walks on. The twig keeps waving back and forth. Jon comes by and waves back automatically to the snowman. Then it dawns on him it is just a snowman. But I can not find the cartoon anymore, so if anyone out there has it I would be very greatful if you could send a link? Anyway, the same point can be illustrated with the following images

Do you perceive this snowman as waving? Perhaps not.

If the snowman gets hands, does that make it more likely that you see the waving?

For those of you who are unimpressed at this time: Not everyone would perhaps predict the same. In his 2004 book Adam Kendon hints at the possibility of creating an animation of a waving amoebe, by controlling the movement features of a amoebe-like shape. I would predict that this will only work if the amoebe gets hands or something that resembles them just enough.

Look at me, I am thinking

Here is a nice Garfield comic (always a good source for gestures, see here and here). It illustrates how a bit of fidgeting (thoughtful lip-touching) can be turned into a pose. Suddenly Jon displays a gesture of thoughtfulness instead of actually being lost in thought.


The Evolutionary Edge of Imitation

Not a few scientists and/or psychologists are quite excited by the discovery of mirror neurons. What is a mirror neuron? A mirror neuron fires both when you perform an action and when you observe the same action performed by another. The neuron “mirrors” the behavior of others, as though you were acting yourself. Why do we and other apes have this mirror system? It is speculated that we use it to understand the actions of other people, and for learning new skills by imitation.

Do you want to feel your mirror neurons at work in a game of mind reading? Try guessing Rooney’s intentions over here.

But when it comes to imitation one wonders who benefits most from it? Animal or Man? It seems that at least one gesturing cat makes the most of it.

Will Garfield benefit from his gestural abilities in an evolutionary sense as well?
Will Jon be able to use his mirror neurons to understand Garfield’s intentions better next time? (

And then again it may not be a matter of out-evolving other animal species. We may have to go up against the machines one day. At Honda (maker of Asimo) and ATR they are equipping robots with abilities to read minds and imitate gestures.

Victory for the machines? (source)

At least for the machine it is clear how it accomplishes the task. It scans your brain with MRI. That brings us back to humans and their mirror neurons. How does it work? We do not scan other people’s brains. We merely have our eyes.

I believe that we see what we want to see as much as what is actually shown. We do not read minds but project our own minds unto others. So do our mirror neurons inform the visual system and the rest of the brain (and body?) what to see? Or does my visual system communicate directly with unknown human motion perception bits and pieces. Pieces that are as much about perception as they are about motor production?

It would be very interesting to see what happens to firing mirron neurons in cases of misjudged intentions. Suppose we think we see someone about to hit another man, whereas he was actually just scratching his armpit (for want of a nicer example). Would the right mirror neurons fire, because it is but the low-level motor programs associated with the actual postures and movements that are mirrored? Or would the wrong mirror neurons fire because they are under the control of our higher ‘mind projecting’ powers?

I thought I saw a terrorist
Acting suspiciously
So my neurons fired first
Triggered unhappily

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén