CURF Introduction: Does Gesturing While Speaking Really Matter?

Hi everyone! My name is Sasha, and I am a senior at Pitt. I am majoring in Psychology and minoring in Social Work and History. One interesting fact about me is that my favorite hobby is weightlifting. I love trying to set new personal records in the gym and become as strong as I can be. My current academic goal is to go to graduate school for clinical psychology, and my ultimate professional goal is to eventually become a clinical psychologist. I love doing research and can definitely see myself as a researcher in my future. I think the CURF will absolutely help me achieve my academic and professional goals by giving me the resources to pursue my research and further my research experience. Through CURF, I have the opportunity to become a better researcher and a better applicant for graduate school.

My research project is through the Kids’ Thinking Lab, which is run by Dr. Melissa Libertus. The project within the lab that I am pulling my data from is called the Parents Promoting Early Learning, or PPEL, project. The PPEL Project is a longitudinal study that examines how the home learning environment supports early childhood learning, specifically language and math. For my specific research project, I wanted to look at children’s development of spatial math skills. My preliminary research suggested that gesturing while speaking may have a particularly important effect on the development of spatial math skills for children, but there was still a huge gap in the amount of research on this topic. Therefore, I decided to observe interactions between parents and their children, and then examine spatial skills assessments that the children took, to determine if children who gestured while speaking more had better spatial skills than children who did not gesture while speaking. I also wanted to see if there was a link between the parents’ gesturing and their children’s spatial skills. Preliminary analyses showed that these factors may be associated, but the sample size was too small. This semester, I will be able to recruit more participants and achieve an adequate sample size to do the proper analyses! I am very excited to continue with this research, and I am very grateful that the CURF have given me the ability to do so. I am also looking forward to reading about each of your projects throughout the semester and exploring different fields other than psychology for the first time!

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