Susan Goldin-Meadow

Susan Goldin-Meadow
University of Chicago | UC · Department of Psychology

PhD

About

368
Publications
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Publications

Publications (368)
Preprint
Linguistic alignment—the contingent reuse of our interlocutors' language at all levels of linguistic structure—pervades human dialogue. Here, we design unique measures to capture the degree of linguistic alignment between interlocutors' linguistic representations at three levels of structure: lexical, syntactic, and semantic. We track these measure...
Article
Many undergraduate chemistry students struggle to understand the concept of stereoisomers, molecules that have the same molecular formula and sequence of bonded atoms but are different in how their atoms are oriented in space. Our goal in this study is to improve stereoisomer instruction by getting participants actively involved in the lesson. Usin...
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The noun–verb distinction has long been considered a fundamental property of human language, and has been found in some form even in the earliest stages of language emergence, including homesign and the early generations of emerging sign languages. We present two experimental studies that use silent gesture to investigate how noun–verb distinctions...
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How language began is one of the oldest questions in science, but theories remain speculative due to a lack of direct evidence. Here, we report two experiments that generate empirical evidence to inform gesture-first and vocal-first theories of language origin; in each, we tested modern humans’ ability to communicate a range of meanings (995 distin...
Chapter
Communication is a critical skill in development—it allows children to convey the contents of their minds, and gain access to the thoughts of those around them. When we think of early communication, we may think mostly of children's first words. But, in fact, early communication is led not by the mouth, but by the hands. We gesture from early in de...
Article
Why do people gesture when they speak? According to one influential proposal, the Lexical Retrieval Hypothesis (LRH), gestures serve a cognitive function in speakers' minds by helping them find the right spatial words. Do gestures also help speakers find the right words when they talk about abstract concepts that are spatialized metaphorically? If...
Article
The link between language and cognition is unique to our species and emerges early in infancy. Here, we provide the first evidence that this precocious language-cognition link is not limited to spoken language, but is instead sufficiently broad to include sign language, a language presented in the visual modality. Four- to six-month-old hearing inf...
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The use of higher‐order thinking talk (HOTT), where speakers identify relations between representations (e.g., comparison, causality, abstraction) is examined in the spontaneous language produced by 64 typically developing (TD) and 46 brain‐injured children, observed from 14–58 months at home. HOTT is less frequent in lower‐income children and chil...
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Children differ widely in their early language development, and this variability has important implications for later life outcomes. Parent language input is a strong experiential factor predicting the variability in children’s early language skills. However, little is known about the brain or cognitive mechanisms that underlie the relationship. In...
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How does the brain anticipate information in language? When people perceive speech, low-frequency (<10 Hz) activity in the brain synchronizes with bursts of sound and visual motion. This phenomenon, called cortical stimulus-tracking, is thought to be one way that the brain predicts the timing of upcoming words, phrases, and syllables. In this study...
Article
When we use our hands to estimate the length of a stick in the Müller-Lyer illusion, we are highly susceptible to the illusion. But when we prepare to act on sticks under the same conditions, we are significantly less susceptible. Here, we asked whether people are susceptible to illusion when they use their hands not to act on objects but to descri...
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Like many indigenous populations worldwide, Yucatec Maya communities are rapidly undergoing change as they become more connected with urban centers and access to formal education, wage labour, and market goods became more accessible to their inhabitants. However, little is known about how these changes affect children’s language input. Here, we pro...
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Human languages, signed and spoken, can be characterized by the structural patterns they use to associate communicative forms with meanings. One such pattern is paradigmatic morphology, where complex words are built from the systematic use and re-use of sub-lexical units. Here, we provide evidence of emergent paradigmatic morphology akin to number...
Article
Linguistic input has an immediate effect on child language, making it difficult to discern whatever biases children may bring to language-learning. To discover these biases, we turn to deaf children who cannot acquire spoken language and are not exposed to sign language. These children nevertheless produce gestures, called homesigns, which have str...
Article
A longitudinal study with 45 children (Hispanic, 13%; non-Hispanic, 87%) investigated whether the early production of non-referential beat and flip gestures, as opposed to referential iconic gestures, in parent-child naturalistic interactions from 14 to 58 months old predicts narrative abilities at age 5. Results revealed that only non-referential...
Article
It is well established that gesture facilitates learning, but understanding the best way to harness gesture and how gesture helps learners are still open questions. Here, we consider one of the properties that may make gesture a powerful teaching tool: its temporal alignment with spoken language. Previous work shows that the simultaneity of speech...
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When people speak or sign, they not only describe using words but also depict and indicate. How are these different methods of communication integrated? Here, we focus on pointing and, in particular, on commonalities and differences in how pointing is integrated into language by speakers and signers. One aspect of this integration is semantic—how p...
Article
Personal narrative is decontextualized talk where individuals recount stories of personal experiences about past or future events. As an everyday discursive speech type, narrative potentially invites parents and children to explicitly link together, generalize from, and make inferences about representations-i.e., to engage in higher-order thinking...
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Early linguistic input is a powerful predictor of children’s language outcomes. We investigated two novel questions about this relationship: Does the impact of language input vary over time, and does the impact of time-varying language input on child outcomes differ for vocabulary and for syntax? Using methods from epidemiology to account for basel...
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Two differences between signed and spoken languages that have been widely discussed in the literature are: the degree to which morphology is expressed simultaneously (rather than sequentially), and the degree to which iconicity is used, particularly in predicates of motion and location, often referred to as classifier predicates. In this paper we a...
Article
In this study, adults naïve to organic chemistry drew stereoisomers of molecules and explained their drawings. From these explanations, we identified nine strategies that participants expressed during those explanations. Five of the nine strategies referred to properties of the molecule that were explanatorily irrelevant to solving the problem; the...
Article
A key question in developmental research concerns how children learn associations between words and meanings in their early language development. Given a vast array of possible referents, how does the child know what a word refers to? We contend that onomatopoeia (e.g. knock, meow), where a word's sound evokes the sound properties associated with i...
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When people talk, they move their hands to enhance meaning. Using accelerometry, we measured whether people spontaneously use their artificial limbs (prostheses) to gesture, and whether this behavior relates to everyday prosthesis use and perceived embodiment. Perhaps surprisingly, one- and two-handed participants did not differ in the number of ge...
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Significance Socioeconomic disparities in math proficiency are observable when children enter kindergarten, and these disparities persist through the school years. Research suggests that overall proficiency at kindergarten entry depends upon specific skills that all normally developing children age 3 to 5 y can learn. We therefore designed a proced...
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In this article, we provide a narrative review of research literature on the development of pragmatic skills and the social uses of language in children and adolescents, with a focus on those who are deaf and hard of hearing (DHH). In the review, we consider how pragmatic skills may develop over time for DHH children and adolescents depending on ag...
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Speakers and signers naturally and spontaneously gesture when they use language to communicate. These gestures not only play a central role in how language is used in social situations but also offer insight into speakers' and signers' cognitive processes. The goals of this article are twofold: (1) to document how gesture can be used to identify co...
Article
Some concepts are more essential for human communication than others. In this paper, we investigate whether the concept of agent-backgrounding is sufficiently important for communication that linguistic structures for encoding this concept are present in young sign languages. Agent-backgrounding constructions serve to reduce the prominence of the a...
Article
The linguistic input children receive has a massive and immediate effect on their language acquisition. This fact makes it difficult to discover the biases that children bring to language learning simply because their input is likely to obscure those biases. In this article, I turn to children who lack linguistic input to aid in this discovery: dea...
Chapter
Children greatly vary in the number of words they know when they enter school, a major factor influencing subsequent school and workplace success. This variability is partially explained by the differential quantity of parental speech to preschoolers. However, the contexts in which young learners hear new words are also likely to vary in referentia...
Chapter
Deaf children who are unable to acquire oral language naturally and who are not exposed to a standard manual language can spontaneously develop a structured sign system that has many of the properties of natural spoken language. This communication system appears to be largely the invention of the child himself rather than that of the caretakers
Chapter
Logical properties such as negation, implication, and symmetry, despite the fact that they are foundational and threaded through the vocabulary and syntax of known natural languages, pose a special problem for language learning. Their meanings are much harder to identify and isolate in the child’s everyday interaction with referents in the world th...
Article
How do humans compute approximate number? According to one influential theory, approximate number representations arise in the intraparietal sulcus and are amodal, meaning that they arise independent of any sensory modality. Alternatively, approximate number may be computed initially within sensory systems. Here we tested for sensitivity to approxi...
Preprint
Full-text available
When people talk, they move their hands to enhance meaning. Here we ask whether people spontaneously use their artificial limbs (prostheses) to gesture, and whether prosthesis gesture behaviour relates to everyday prosthesis use and perceived embodiment. One-handed participants with congenital and acquired hand loss and two-handed controls particip...
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Children vary extensively in their language skills at school entry, and a substantial part of this variation is due to disparities in language exposure prior to school. Because these differences have continuing impact on academic, cognitive and social development, prevention and intervention programs have been developed to address deficits in early...
Article
We present a case of a 14-year-old girl born without the left hemisphere due to prenatal left internal carotid occlusion. We combined longitudinal language and cognitive assessments with functional and structural neuroimaging data to situate the case within age-matched, typically developing children. Despite having had a delay in getting language o...
Preprint
Full-text available
Adolescence is a developmental period in which social interactions become increasingly important. Successful social interactions rely heavily on pragmatic competence, the appropriate use of language in different social contexts, a skill that is still developing in adolescence. In the present study, we used fMRI to characterize the brain networks un...
Preprint
When learners explain answers to tasks they have yet to master, they often gesture. In a pretest- posttest design, we show that these gestures provide insight into what learners know about a chemistry task, and whether they are ready to make gains on that task. Adults, naïve to organic chemistry, drew stereoisomers of molecules and explained their...
Article
Speech-accompanying gestures constitute one information channel during communication. Some have argued that processing gestures engages the brain regions that support language comprehension. However, studies that have been used as evidence for shared mechanisms suffer from one or more of the following limitations: they (a) have not directly compare...
Article
Action and perception interact in complex ways to shape how we learn. In the context of language acquisition, for example, hand gestures can facilitate learning novel sound-to-meaning mappings that are critical to successfully understanding a second language. However, the mechanisms by which motor and visual information influence auditory learning...
Article
Logical properties such as negation, implication, and symmetry, despite the fact that they are foundational and threaded through the vocabulary and syntax of known natural languages, pose a special problem for language learning. Their meanings are much harder to identify and isolate in the child’s everyday interaction with referents in the world th...
Article
Producing gesture can be a powerful tool for facilitating learning. This effect has been replicated across a variety of academic domains, including algebra, chemistry, geometry, and word learning. Yet the mechanisms underlying the effect are poorly understood. Here we address this gap using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We examine t...
Article
Past research has shown that children's mental rotation skills are malleable and can be improved through action experience-physically rotating objects- or gesture experience-showing how objects could rotate (e.g., Frick, Ferrara, & Newcombe, 2013; Goldin-Meadow et al., 2012; Levine, Goldin-Meadow, Carlson, & Hemani-Lopez, 2018). These two types of...
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The Cambridge Handbook of Cognition and Education - edited by John Dunlosky February 2019
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Cambridge Core - Cognition - The Cambridge Handbook of Cognition and Education - edited by John Dunlosky
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How do the signs of sign language differ from the gestures that speakers produce when they talk? We address this question by focusing on pointing. Pointing signs play an important role in sign languages, with some types functioning like pronouns in spoken language (e.g., Sandler & Lillo-Martin 2006). Pointing gestures, in contrast, are not usually...
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Full-text available
In a number of signed languages, the distinction between nouns and verbs is evident in the morphophonology of the signs themselves. Here we use a novel elicitation paradigm to investigate the systematicity, emergence, and development of the noun-verb distinction (qua objects vs. actions) in an established sign language, American Sign Language (ASL)...
Article
When asked to explain their solutions to a problem, children often gesture and, at times, these gestures convey information that is different from the information conveyed in speech. Children who produce these gesture‐speech “mismatches” on a particular task have been found to profit from instruction on that task. We have recently found that some c...
Article
Interpreting iconic gestures can be challenging for children. Here, we explore the features and functions of iconic gestures that make them more challenging for young children to interpret than instrumental actions. In Study 1, we show that 2.5-year-olds are able to glean size information from handshape in a simple gesture, although their performan...
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Full-text available
It is widely believed that reading to preschool children promotes their language and literacy skills. Yet, whether early parent‐child book reading is an index of generally rich linguistic input or a unique predictor of later outcomes remains unclear. To address this question, we asked whether naturally occurring parent‐child book reading interactio...
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The language that people use to describe events reflects their perspective on the event. This linguistic encoding is influenced by conceptual accessibility, particularly whether individuals in the event are animate or agentive – animates are more likely than inanimates to appear as Subject of a sentence, and agents are more likely than patients to...
Article
When people talk, they gesture. These gestures often convey substantive information that is related, but not always identical, to the information conveyed in speech. Gesture thus offers listeners insight into a speaker’s unspoken cognition. But gesture can do more than reflect cognition—it can play a role in changing cognition and, as a result, con...
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Full-text available
In everyday communication, not only do speakers describe, but they also depict. When depicting, speakers take on the role of other people and quote their speech or imitate their actions. In previous work, we developed a paradigm to elicit depictions in speakers. Here we apply this paradigm to signers to explore depiction in the manual modality, wit...
Article
Learning the cardinal principle (the last word reached when counting a set represents the size of the whole set) is a major milestone in early mathematics. But researchers disagree about the relationship between cardinal principle knowledge and other concepts, including how counting implements the successor function (for each number word N represen...
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Full-text available
During communication, speakers commonly rotate their forearms so that their palms turn upward. Yet despite more than a century of observations of such palm-up gestures, their meanings and origins have proven difficult to pin down. We distinguish two gestures within the palm-up form family: the palm-up presentational and the palm-up epistemic. The l...
Article
Teaching a new concept through gestures—hand movements that accompany speech—facilitates learning above‐and‐beyond instruction through speech alone (e.g., Singer & Goldin‐Meadow, 2005). However, the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are still under investigation. Here, we use eye tracking to explore one often proposed mechanism—gesture's abilit...
Article
Verb learning is difficult for children (Gentner, 1982), partially because children have a bias to associate a novel verb not only with the action it represents, but also with the object on which it is learned (Kersten & Smith, 2002). Here we investigate how well 4- and 5-year-old children (N = 48) generalize novel verbs for actions on objects afte...
Article
We examined the effects of three different training conditions, all of which involve the motor system, on kindergarteners’ mental transformation skill. We focused on three main questions. First, we asked whether training that involves making a motor movement that is relevant to the mental transformation—either concretely through action (action trai...
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Full-text available
Gesture is an integral part of children's communicative repertoire. However, little is known about the neurobiology of speech and gesture integration in the developing brain. We investigated how 8- to 10-year-old children processed gesture that was essential to understanding a set of narratives. We asked whether the functional neuroanatomy of gestu...