Gestures and Non-verbal Communication


My research into the psychology of gestures began in 1997 and resulted in many academic journal articles and conference presentations worldwide. Many of these are listed on on the list of academic publications section on this website. A seminal paper showed that children’s gestures are a window to their cognitive and linguistic processes.

My team in the GESTURES AND COMMUNICATION RESEARCH CENTRE when I was at the University of Hertfordshire included Dr Liz Kirk, Dr Daniel Gurney and Neil Howlett.

Liz is now at the University of York and works on parent-infant interaction and gesture use. Her PhD thesis looked at the impact of encouraging infants to gesture on their language development. In 2012 this was featured in a Daily Telegraph article, followed by publication in Child Development.

Daniel researches adults’ gesture use and the effects of gestures on memory recall in adults. For his MSc Neil researched the link between maternal stress and baby signing.

Daniel won the British Psychological Society prize for his research poster: ‘Can misleading hand gestures influence eye-witness testimony’. (Click on the link to download).

The focus of my work was on how gestures are far more than communicative devices, they facilitate cognitive and linguistic processes. In children, particularly, knowledge emerges in gesture before it is present in the child’s speech, so gestures provide a window into the child’s thinking. My work also investigated gesture as an educational tool as well as a means of assessment of cognitive level. We all think with our bodies, not just with our brains, and the study of gestures gives a fascinating insight into this process.