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Dr Elizabeth Kirk

Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Psychology and Sport Science
Areas of Expertise:
Mind and Behaviour , Psychology
Research Supervision:

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

[email protected]

Visit Elizabeth's Google Scholar Page


Elizabeth joined the Psychology department at ARU as a Senior Lecturer in 2018. She is a member of the ARU Centre for Mind and Behaviour.

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.


Issues in Social and Developmental Psychology

  • 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, 2019. The mindedness of maternal touch: An investigation of maternal mind-mindedness and mother-infant touch interactions. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 35, pp. 47-56.

Kirk, E., Sharma, S., 2017. Mind-mindedness in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 43, pp. 18-26.

Kirk, E., Lewis, C., 2017. Gesture facilitates children’s creative thinking. Psychological Science, 28(2), pp. 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, pp. 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, pp. 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), pp. 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, 26(2), pp. 149-170. doi: 10.1080/01690961003752348

Howlett, N., Kirk, E., 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), pp. 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), pp. 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), pp. 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.
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