Research Interests

Research Lines

Language Development

This line of work focuses on early language learning by examining perceptual-conceptual underpinnings of relational language (verbs-prepositions), how children express relational words in both speech-gesture, and what factors influence learning these words. We argue that to learn relational words, infants first universally notice a common set of foundational components in events – dividing the world in language-ready ways. As children learn how to express event components in their native language, they highlight certain components over others and metaphorically trade spaces; moving from being ‘language-generalists’ to ‘language-specific interpreters’ of events. In the process of learning relational language, infants not only attend to components of events, but language might also serve as a tool for constructing complex event concepts. We investigate event representations and learning relational language from a cross-linguistic perspective at different levels of representations and in different populations (full-term children, preterm children, children with brain injury, bilingual children). We focus on typically and atypically developing children in longitudinal studies. We also examine different cognitive mechanisms that may be in interaction with language development such as pretend play skills, causal reasoning, and relational reasoning.

Language and Thought

In this line of research, we examine language and thought relation focusing on different areas such as time-space relation, time perception, and spatial events. Our goal is to figure out the role of language in various cognitive processes. In a series of studies, we examine how individuals speaking different languages encode motion elements and whether gestural expressions resemble the spoken expressions. We examine how people use different modalities such as spontaneous gestures to represent various temporal concepts. Here we examine the mapping of time onto space in individuals’ verbal and gestural expressions. We also investigate how gestures reflect thought processes when people talk about spatial information, such as giving directions or describing motions, and reveal information about problem solving strategies. In several studies, we examine the role of gestures in both thinking and communicating about spatial information. We compare low and high-spatial individuals’ performance on tasks based on gesture use as well as comparing various age groups and populations. We not only test gesture production but also multimodal comprehension. In this research line we examine how people integrate information from different modalities (verbal and gestural), the factors that may influence this integration, and individual differences in using these resources.

Neuropsychology of Language

This line of research mainly focuses on how unilateral brain-injured patients comprehend and use language, the role of gestures in these processes, and the brain lesions correlating with these processes. In our new line of research, we investigate different patient groups such as individuals with Parkinson’s Disease and individuals with Schizophrenia. To understand neural correlates of different levels of event representations (verbal and gestural), we use a voxel-lesion symptom mapping analysis as well as case statistics. We again follow a cross-linguistic approach and test different language groups. This line of research tells us the nature of language and thought relation and how changes in one cognitive process can influence the other.

Designing tools for children’s learning

In this line of research, together with the Interactive Design researchers, we aim to develop tools for children’s learning of spatial and mathematical concepts. As an exciting interdisciplinary area of research, we design tangible tools and mixed reality systems with and for children. We examine whether children learn better with these technologies and what factors can influence their learning.

Development of aesthetics

In this new exciting line of research, I aim to investigate the early development of aesthetics judgments with particular emphasis on art. Do young infants have preferences for certain artwork over others? What are the cultural factors that influence art appreciation? Does language have an influence on judgments of artwork?