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.
Goldin-Meadow has also 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.
In 2001, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a James McKeen Cattell Fellowship, which led to her two books, Resilience of Language and Hearing Gesture. In addition, she edited Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Thought in collaboration with Dedre Gentner, and founded the journal Language Learning and Development.
She served as the President of the Cognitive Development Society, the International Society for Gesture Studies, and is currently chair of the Cognitive Science Society. Goldin-Meadow was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, received the Mentor Award in Developmental Psychology from the American Psychological Association in 2011, and will receive the William James Award for Lifetime Achievement in Basic Research from the Association for Psychological Science in 2015.