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 at Fullerton 2001

  • B.A., California State University at 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, K, and Wilbourn, MP. "The what and the how: Information-seeking pointing gestures facilitate learning labels and functions." Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 178 (February 2019): 417-436. Full Text

Kalia, V, Daneri, MP, and Wilbourn, MP. "Relations between vocabulary and executive functions in Spanish-english dual language learners." Bilingualism 22.1 (January 1, 2019): 1-14. Full Text

Ruba, AL, Wilbourn, MP, Ulrich, DM, and Harris, LT. "Constructing emotion categorization: Insights from developmental psychology applied to a young adult sample." Emotion (Washington, D.C.) 18.7 (October 2018): 1043-1051. Full Text

Lucca, K, and Wilbourn, MP. "Communicating to Learn: Infants' Pointing Gestures Result in Optimal Learning." Child Development 89.3 (May 2018): 941-960. Full Text

Ruba, AL, Johnson, KM, Harris, LT, and Wilbourn, MP. "Developmental changes in infants' categorization of anger and disgust facial expressions." Developmental psychology 53.10 (October 2017): 1826-1832. Full Text

Kuhn, LJ, Willoughby, MT, Wilbourn, MP, Vernon-Feagans, L, Blair, CB, and Family Life Project Key Investigators, . "Early communicative gestures prospectively predict language development and executive function in early childhood." Child Development 85.5 (September 2014): 1898-1914. Full Text

Kalia, V, Wilbourn, MP, and Ghio, K. "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 26.7 (January 1, 2014): 699-713. Full Text


Selected Grants

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