Potential PhD Projects

Gesture and cognition

When thinking or speaking, we often produce gestures to depict actions, motions, shapes, or locations. Growing evidence shows that these gestures can affect the gesturer's own cognitive processes and mental representations. For example, when solving mental rotation problems, people often spontaneously move their hands to help them solve the problems (Chu & Kita, 2011). Similarly, when describing complex information, people often produce gestures to break down information into smaller chunks for the speech production process (Kita, 2000). Little is known, however, about how gesture facilitates thinking and speaking. I am interested in: (1) how gesture facilitates spatial cognition and whether the gestural benefit is long-lasting and transferable; (2) how gesture facilitates speech production and whether gesture exerts larger impact on speaking in some situations or for some people than in other situations or for other people; (3) whether and how gesture facilitates creative thinking, especially spatial creativity.

Gesture and social interaction

Gesture is a powerful form of nonverbal communication in social interactions and it allows individuals to not only communicate surface meanings (e.g., size, shape, location and etc.) but also express subtle feelings and thoughts behind speech. So far, the role of gestures in expressing and decoding subtle indirect and emotional information remains poorly understood. Here, I am interested in: (1) whether and how listeners use speakers’ gestures, as well as other nonverbal cues, to decode indirect messages behind speech (e.g., euphemism, circumlocution, metaphor, and irony); (2) whether and how gestures (and other nonverbal behaviours) facilitate decoding emotional information in face-to-face conversations; (3) what social factors (e.g., anxiety, empathy, and personality) contribute to individual differences in gesture production.