Susan Goldin-Meadow has done extensive research on how our hands help us talk and think. She discovered that deaf children whose hearing losses prevent them from learning spoken languages and whose hearing parents have not exposed them to sign language are not language-less. Despite their lack of linguistic input, these children use their hands to create their own gesture languages, called homesigns.
Prof. Goldin-Meadow also has found that individuals who are blind from birth gesture in much the same way that sighted people do, even though they’ve never seen anyone gesture. These gestures offer a unique window onto thought, often revealing cutting-edge knowledge that the gesturer is unable to express in speech. In recent work, she is finding that gesture not only reveals thought, but also plays an active role in changing thought––we can change our minds just by moving our hands.
She is currently the president of the Cognitive Development Society and the editor of the journal Language Learning and Development.