Makeba Parramore Wilbourn

Makeba Parramore Wilbourn

Associate Professor of the Practice of Psychology and Neuroscience

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Cornell University 2008

  • M.A., California State University, Fullerton 2001

  • B.A., California State University, Fullerton 1997


My program of research explores how the relationship between cognition and language changes over time and the types of input (e.g., gestures, bilingualism) that influence this relationship. In general, my research addresses three key theoretical questions. First, how does cognition influence language early in development? In particular, I am interested in how infants and toddlers’ developing cognitive and perceptual skills lay the foundation for early word learning and how this changes as a function of input and experience. Secondly, how does language come to influence cognition in children and adults? In this line of research, I am interested in determining how various types of linguistic and cultural experiences affect the cognitive abilities of monolinguals and bilinguals throughout development. Finally, how does the use of gesture influence the relationship between cognition and language? This area of research focuses on the relationship between early gesture use and later language development and how this relationship is influenced by socio-cultural factors, such as race and socioeconomic status.


Development, gesture, early word learning, cognition and language, socio-cultural factors

Lucca, Kelsey, and Makeba Parramore Wilbourn. “The what and the how: Information-seeking pointing gestures facilitate learning labels and functions.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, vol. 178, Feb. 2019, pp. 417–36. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2018.08.003. Full Text

Kalia, V., et al. “Relations between vocabulary and executive functions in Spanish-english dual language learners.” Bilingualism, vol. 22, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 1–14. Scopus, doi:10.1017/S1366728917000463. Full Text

Kalia, V., et al. “Cognitive control and phonological awareness in the acquisition of second language vocabulary within the Spanish-English dual immersion context.” Cognitive Development, vol. 48, Oct. 2018, pp. 176–89. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2018.08.010. Full Text

Ruba, Ashley L., et al. “Constructing emotion categorization: Insights from developmental psychology applied to a young adult sample.Emotion (Washington, D.C.), vol. 18, no. 7, Oct. 2018, pp. 1043–51. Epmc, doi:10.1037/emo0000364. Full Text

Lucca, Kelsey, and Makeba Parramore Wilbourn. “Communicating to Learn: Infants' Pointing Gestures Result in Optimal Learning.Child Development, vol. 89, no. 3, May 2018, pp. 941–60. Epmc, doi:10.1111/cdev.12707. Full Text

Ruba, Ashley L., et al. “Developmental changes in infants' categorization of anger and disgust facial expressions.Developmental Psychology, vol. 53, no. 10, Oct. 2017, pp. 1826–32. Epmc, doi:10.1037/dev0000381. Full Text

Kuhn, Laura J., et al. “Early communicative gestures prospectively predict language development and executive function in early childhood.Child Development, vol. 85, no. 5, Sept. 2014, pp. 1898–914. Epmc, doi:10.1111/cdev.12249. Full Text

Kalia, V., et al. “Better early or late? Examining the influence of age of exposure and language proficiency on executive function in early and late bilinguals.” Journal of Cognitive Psychology, vol. 26, no. 7, Jan. 2014, pp. 699–713. Scopus, doi:10.1080/20445911.2014.956748. Full Text

Wilbourn, M. P., and J. P. Sims. “Get by With a Little Help From a Word: Multimodal Input Facilitates 26-Month-Olds' Ability to Map and Generalize Arbitrary Gestural Labels.” Journal of Cognition and Development, vol. 14, no. 2, Apr. 2013, pp. 250–69. Scopus, doi:10.1080/15248372.2012.658930. Full Text

Robertson, Steven S., et al. “Attentional dynamics of infant visual foraging.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 109, no. 28, July 2012, pp. 11460–64. Epmc, doi:10.1073/pnas.1203482109. Full Text


Selected Grants

REU Site: Lifespan Approaches to Diverse Psychological Science awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2020 to 2023

CAREER: Gesture and Learning: Implications for Language Development Across Race and Socioeconomic Status awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2019