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Learning to communicate is one of the most exciting accomplishments of childhood. We are particularly interested in development of language and gesture, and how such communicative behaviours are related to development of children's thinking (cognitive) abilities. Our research takes an interdisciplinary approach to describe how communicative and cognitive development unfolds and to explain the developmental mechanisms that make it possible. We study behaviours of children from birth to 16 years. Our studies with adults complement our developmental work.

More details can be found at Professor Kita's personal webpage.

Current Research

Sound Symbolism and Gesture Study

We are currently starting up a study with 13-15-month-old babies. If you are interested in participating in this or in other studies at the Communication & Development Lab at the University of Warwick, contact us on 078 2352 4617 or at

The study

We are just starting a word learning study with 13-15-month-old babies between. In this study, we are examining whether a particular category of words will boost infants’ understanding of whether a new word ‘goes with’ a new object. This category of words is called sound symbolic – they are similar to onomatopoeic words like purr, bark, and crash. These words are slightly different from more common words like table, run, and green in that sound-symbolic words have an interesting property. People seem to create a link between the word and the referent. For example, it would be strange to many people to name a curvy, round object a kiki but calling the same object a bouba somehow feels like a match. Studies examining this phenomenon have found this effect across languages and ages. The aim of our study is to find out whether children treat these novel sound-symbolic words in the same way as words that they already know. During the session, babies will be hearing familiar words like puppy, and kitty, but also novel words like kiki and bouba.

Bouba Kiki puppy-page-001.jpg

What to expect

You and your child can visit the beautiful grounds of the University of Warwick and will have the opportunity to partake in worthy research. In our word learning studies, like the one described above, your child will be shown several unique shapes and objects displayed on our HD screen while listening to new potential labels for these shapes and objects. They will also see familiar objects and animals, while hearing the labels for these.

When infants are given paired visual and audio stimuli, they look longer at the visual stimulus if they’re interested in the audio stimulus. We collect our data by recording their eye gaze and where they look. We also record whether children point at what they see, and other gestures they produce during the task. This information tells us quite a lot about how infants learn language. All data and information are strictly confidential and we don’t evaluate the data of individual participants. You will be with your baby (on your lap or in a high chair) during the study, which will take about 10 to 15 minutes but we book one hour slots to allow for a chat with the researcher, who will tell you about the study, discuss the consent form process, answer your questions, and also time to have your little one adjust to the surroundings.