Dr Elizabeth Kirk

Senior Lecturer

Faculty:Faculty of Science & Technology

Department:Psychology

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Brain & Cognition , Psychology

Elizabeth is a developmental psychologist and her research focuses on the role of gesture in language and thought.

elizabeth.kirk@anglia.ac.uk

Elizabeth Kirk's Google Scholar Page

Background

Elizabeth joined the Psychology department at ARU as a Senior Lecturer in 2018. Before joining our department, Elizabeth was a lecturer in Psychology at the University of York, and before that she was Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. Elizabeth received her doctorate from the University of Hertfordshire in 2009.

Research interests

Gesture in parent-infant interactions

What effect does encouraging infants to gesture (Baby Sign) have on language development and parental-infant interaction? How does exposure to more than one language impact upon infant’s gesture production, and what do bilingual infant’s gestures reveal about their language development? Is the association between gesture and language culturally universal? Dr Kirk's research addresses these questions using longitudinal, cross-sectional and observational methods. She is working in collaboration with: Dr Meesha Warmington, University of Sheffield; Dr Reyhan Furman, University of Central Lancashire; Dr Katie Slocombe, University of York; and Professor Caroline Rowland, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

The role of gesture in thought

Dr Kirk's research demonstrates that gestures can help us think and can help us to generate new ideas. For example, encouraging children to gesture while they solve a creative thinking task can make them more creative. On the other hand, gesture can also mislead children during eyewitness interviews and can create false memories. She is currently collaborating with Dr Daniel Gurney (Hertfordshire) and Dr Mark Blades (Sheffield) to investigate the gestural misinformation effect in children and adults.

Changing Bodies, Changing Minds

Throughout development our body changes significantly and often dramatically. Dr Kirk is interested in the way in which these bodily changes impact upon our cognitions and emotions. In collaboration with cognitive neuroscientist Dr Catherine Preston (York), her research examines the development of body understanding in childhood and the perception of bodily changes during pregnancy.

Areas of research supervision

Dr Kirk is accepting applications for PhDs within her research interests as described above.

Teaching

Issues in Social and Developmental Psychology

Qualifications

  • PhD, University of Hertfordshire, 2009
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice, University of York, 2015

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • Preston, C., & Kirk, E., (2017) Changing bodies, changing minds: The development of body size understanding in childhood. British Academy, £8818. 
  • Kirk, E., Warmington, M., Furman, R., Glanville, J. (2016) A systematic review of the relationship between pointing and language development in monolingual and bilingual infants. University Of York Culture and Communication Pump Prime Funding, £2,500
  • Kirk, E. (2013) British Psychological Society Developmental Psychology Section Early Career Researchers International Collaborations Scheme, £1500
  • Kirk, E. & Pine, K.J. (2012) The relationship between symbolic gesture, maternal mind-mindedness and theory of mind. The British Academy and The Leverhulme Trust, £9590.
  • Kirk, E. (2012) An exploration of the relationship between symbolic gesture and pretend play. The British Psychological Society, £1200.
  • Pine, K.J. & Kirk, E. (2009). The impact of gesture training on infant verbal language development. The Nuffield Foundation, £6,836.
  • Kirk, E., Pine, K.J., & Howlett, N. (2009) Communicating with your Baby: ESRC Festival of Science Event. The Economic and Social Research Council, £1,000.
  • Pine, K. J. & Kirk, E. (2007) Improving the communication between infants and parents in disadvantaged families in Hertfordshire. Sure Start/Hertfordshire County Council £30,000.

Selected recent publications

Crucianelli, L., Wheatley, L., Filippetti, M. L., Jenkinson, P. M., Kirk, E., & Fotopoulou, A. K. (in press). The mindedness of maternal touch: An investigation of maternal mind-mindedness and mother-infant touch interactions. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

Kirk, E., & Sharma, S. (2017). Mind-mindedness in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders43, 18-26.

Kirk, E., & Lewis, C. (2017) Gesture facilitates children’s creative thinking. Psychological Science, 28(2), 225–232, doi:10.1177/0956797616679183

Kirk, E., Wheatley, L., Pine, K.J., Howlett, N., & Fletcher, B. (2015) A longitudinal investigation of the relationship between maternal mind-mindedness and theory of mind. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 33, 4, 443-445. doi: 10.1111/bjdp.12104

Lewis, C., Lovatt, P., & Kirk, E. (2015) Many hands make light work: The facilitative role of gesture in verbal improvisation. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 17, 149 – 157. doi:10.1016/j.tsc.2015.06.001

Kirk, E., Gurney, D., Edwards, R., & Dodimead, C. (2015) Handmade Memories: The Robustness of the Gestural Misinformation Effect in Children’s Eyewitness Interviews. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 39(3), 259-273, doi: 10.1007/s10919-015-0210-z

Kirk, E., Howlett, N., Pine, K.J., & Fletcher, B. (2013) To Sign or Not to Sign? The Impact of Encouraging Infants to Gesture on Infant Language and Maternal Mind-Mindedness. Child Development, 84:2, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01874.x

Kirk, E., Pine, K. J. & Ryder, N. (2010). I hear what you say but I see what you mean: The role of gestures in children's pragmatic comprehension. Language and Cognitive Processes, doi:10.1080/01690961003752348.

<>Howlett, N., Kirk, E. and Pine, K. J. (2010) Does ‘Wanting the Best’ create more stress? The link between baby sign classes and maternal anxiety. Infant and Child Development, 20, 4, 437 – 445, doi: 10.1002/icd.705.

Pine, K.J, Bird, H. & Kirk, E. (2007). The effects of prohibiting gestures on children's lexical retrieval ability. Developmental Science, 10, 6, 747-754. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2007.00610.x

Pine, K.J., Lufkin, N., Kirk, E., & Messer, D. (2007). A microgenetic analysis of the relationship between speech and gesture in children: Evidence for semantic and temporal asynchrony. Language and Cognitive Processes, 22, 2, 234 – 246, doi:10.1080/01690960600630881.

Recent presentations and conferences

  • Kirk (2016) Mind-mindedness and maternal gesture. Paper presented at the Seventh Conference of the International Society of Gesture studies, Paris, France, July 2016.
  • Kirk, E. (2015) Baby Sign. Invited lecture in Gesture in Language Development Workshop, Warwick University Psychology Department, UK, July, 2015
  • Kirk, E. & Lewis, C. (2014) Gesture and creativity in children. Paper presented at the Sixth Conference of the International Society of Gesture studies, San Diego, CA, USA, July 2014.
  • Kirk, E., & Critten, S. (2014). The role of gesture in spelling development and spelling instruction. Paper presented at the BPS: Developmental Section conference, Amsterdam, September 2014.
  • Kirk, E. (2013) Handmade Memories: The impact of interviewers’ gestures on children’s eyewitness reports. Paper presented at The British Psychological Society Annual Conference, Harrogate, UK, April 2013.
  • Kirk, E. & Pine, K.J.  (2009) Baby Sign: Assessing the linguistic benefits for infants and exploring the wider implications for mother and baby. Paper presented at MultiMod 2009: Multimodality of communication in children: gestures, emotions, language, and cognition. Toulouse, France. July 2009.

Media experience

  • Thinking With Your Hands Can Boost Creativity: Children Who Use Gestures Tap Into More Unique Ideas, Study Finds, Mail Online, by Stacy Liberatore, December 14th, 2016. Read online.
  • Why Wild Gesticulating Could Indicate Genius, OZY.com, by Melissa Pandika, 6th February 2017. Read online.
  • Mum’s the word: Maternal language has strong effect on children’s social skills, Richard Dawkins.net, 3rd August 2015. Read online.
  • The way you talk to your baby could affect their social skills: 'Mind-related' language helps a child develop into a 'people person', The Daily Mail, by S Freeman, 28th July 2015. Read online.
  • Interviewers' gestures mislead child-witnesses, Science Daily, 9th April, 2013. Read online.
  • Mothers who attend baby signing classes are more stressed, BPS Research Digest, by C. Jarrett, 18th October 2010. Read online. 
  • How gestures help babies born to poorer families, The Observer, by A. Asthana, 14th March 2010. Read online.