Research interests & goals:
Makeba Parramore Wilbourn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. Dr. Wilbourn joined the faculty at Duke University in August of 2008 after receiving a doctorate in developmental psychology from Cornell University in the summer of 2008.
Broadly defined, Dr. Wilbourn’s program of research focuses on the relations between gesture, thought, and language throughout development. More specifically, Dr. Wilbourn’s research examines how aspects of these relations are affected by perceptual, cognitive, linguistic, and socio-cultural influences. General topics of inquiry include early word and symbol learning, categorization and naming, bilingualism, early perception of spoken and signed languages, the influence of cross-modal input (words or gestures), multimodal input (words + gestures), and culture (e.g., SES, race) on early gesture and language development. For instance, one specific line of research explores the relationship between early gesture and language development in both normative and at-risk populations (e.g., preverbal infants, deaf toddlers, language-delayed, autistic children, African American toddlers). A second line of research explores the relationship between thought and language in monolingual and bilingual children and adults. A third line of research explores how socio-cultural factors (e.g., race, SES, mother-child interactions, bilingual language environment) influence the relationship between gesture, thought, and language. One of the goals of this particular line of research is to gain insight into the factors that contribute to the disparities in language and reading achievement often found across various racial and ethnic groups.