Psychology 43550: Gesture

This course will examine the spontaneous movements that we produce when we talk––our gestures. We will first consider what gesture is (and is not), and then explore gesture in relation to communication, thinking, learning, action, and the brain, ending with an exploration of gesture as it becomes language, on-the-spot and over longer periods of time. The course will be tought by Susan Goldin-Meadow during Winter quarter 2014. 


Susan Goldin-Meadow is the Bearsdley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Psychology and Committee on Human Development at the University of Chicago. A year spent at the Piagetian Institute in Geneva while an undergraduate at Smith College piqued her interest in the relationship between language and thought, interests she continued to pursue in her doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. 1975). At Penn and in collaboration with Lila Gleitman and Heidi Feldman, she began her studies exploring whether children who lack a (usable) model for language can nevertheless create a language with their hands. She has found that deaf children whose profound hearing losses prevent them from learning the speech than surrounds them, and whose hearing parents have not exposed them to sign, invent gesture systems which are structured in language-like ways. This interest in how the manual modality can serve the needs of communication and thinking led to her current work on the gestures that accompany speech in hearing individuals. She has found that gesture can convey substantive information – information that is often not expressed in the speech it accompanies. Gesture can thus reveal secrets of the mind to those who pay attention.