My research into the psychology of gestures began in 1997 and I’ve published 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 at the University of Hertfordshire includes Dr Liz Kirk, Dr Daniel Gurney and Neil Howlett.
Liz works on parent-infant interaction and gesture use and her 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 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 has been 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 has 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.
I have supervised PhDs into the effectiveness of babysign (using gestural communication with pre-verbal infants), baby sign and maternal stress and into how gestures can skew memory representations. Some of the results were presented to the BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL SOCIETY CONFERENCE in Sept. 2010 and to the ASSOCIATION OF INFANT MENTAL HEALTH CONFERENCE in 2011.
For more about this work see my University page