• Brain-shaped word cloud of research interests


    My research examines the cognitive and neurobiological mechanisms that allow human language to support learning, focusing in particular on the relationship between gesture and speech. The goal of my research is to understand how the gesture-speech relationship changes between childhood and adulthood, how it enhances learning in diverse populations, and how it is abnormal in neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD. To achieve this goal, I use behavioral (video recording, eyetracking) and neuroscientific (EEG, MEG, fNIRS) techniques to study how the gesture-speech relationship contributes to learning in both children and adults.


    I am open to recruiting Ph.D. students for 2019-2020. If you are interested in joining the Neuroscience of Education Research on Development Lab, please get in touch and come be a NERD!


    The central hypothesis of my research is that gesture related to speech facilitates learning,

    whereas gesture unrelated to speech hinders learning.

    Girl with EGI EEG net on head


    When speech fails to convey information clearly, gesture provides an alternative channel through which information can be conveyed. How do teachers use gesture to convey information, and how do learners integrate it with speech to understand this information? My research shows that different types of gestures convey different information, and that gesture comprehension and production are closely related in learning.

    Woman in front of desk-mounted eyetracker


    Although many learners integrate speech and gesture effortlessly, people with disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulty using gesture to facilitate learning. How does the function and structure of the brain differ in ASD, and why do these neurodevelopmental differences result in impairments in gesture-speech integration and learning? My research shows that brain regions responsible for coordinating the timing and meaning of gesture and speech play a key role in these deficiencies.

    People using speech and gesture to converse


    Like all other aspects of language, gesture develops significantly between childhood and adulthood. How does this development affect children's ability to use gesture to learn concepts effectively? My research shows that children can interpret some types of gesture (iconic and deictic) effectively, but that they have difficulty interpreting other types of gesture (beat), affecting the efficacy of their learning.


    My scientific training spans disciplinary boundaries, providing me with the theoretical and methodological expertise necessary to conduct rigorous yet innovative research on human communication.

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    I conducted research on the cognitive and neural mechanisms of communication in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder using EEG and eyetracking. This position ws funded by an endowment to the Yale Child Study Center by Larry and Debbie Hilibrand.

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    I conducted research on the neurodevelopment of multimodal communication in typically developing adolescents using magnetoencepholography (MEG). This position was funded through a NIH Ruth S. Kirschstenstein NRSA Institutional Fellowship (T32) in Translational Neuroscience awarded through the Dept. of Psychiatry.

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    I conducted research on the cognitive bases of second language acquisition and bilingualism using psycholinguistic methods. My dissertation investigated how gesture can facilitate second language word learning. My graduate training was funded through through the NDSEG fellowship, the Regents' Fellowship, and the Perlino Award.

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    I completed my bachelor's degree summa cum laude with majors in Psychology and Spanish and a minor in English. In my senior thesis, which received honors in both majors, I investigated the effect of modality on word learning in a novel second language.


    My full curriculum vitae is available here.


    Electronic versions of papers are provided here to ensure timely and unbiased dissemination to the public. Copyright resides with the respective copyright holders as stated in each article.


    Morett, L. M., & Fraundorf, S. H. (in press). Listeners consider alternative speaker productions in discourse comprehension and memory: Evidence from beat gesture and pitch accenting​. ​Memory and Cognition.


    Morett, L. M. (in press). The influence of tonal and atonal bilingualism on children's lexical and non-lexical tone perception. Language and Speech. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M. (2019). The power of an image: Images, not glosses, enhance learning of concrete L2 words in beginning learners. ​Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 48, 643-664. (PDF)


    Morett, L.M. (2018). In hand and in mind: Effects of gesture production and viewing on second language word learning. Applied Psycholinguistics. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., O’Hearn, K., Lynn, A. S., Luna, B., & Ghuman, A. S. (2016). Altered gesture and speech production in ASD detract from in-person communicative quality. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 998–1012. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M. (2015). How the hands cue the mind: effects of iconicity and enactment on sign language acquisition. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 27, 251–276. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., & Chang, L. Y. (2015). Emphasizing sound and meaning in tonal language acquisition: a gesture training study. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 30, 347–353. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M. (2014). When hands speak louder than words: the role of gesture in the communication, encoding, and recall of a novel second language. The Modern Language Journal, 98, 834–853. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., & MacWhinney, B. (2013). Syntactic transfer in English-speaking Spanish learners. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16, 132–151. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., Clegg, B. A., Blalock, L. D., & Mong, H. M. (2009). Applying multimedia learning theory to map learning and driving navigation. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology & Behaviour, 12, 40–49. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., Fraundorf, S. H., & McPartland, J. C. (2019). Eye see what you're saying: Beat gesture facilitates online resolution of contrastive referring expressions in spoken discourse. In A. Goel, C. Seifert, & C. Freksa (Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. ​Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. (PDF)


    ​Morett, L. M., Roche, J. M., Fraundorf, S. H., & McPartland, J. C. (2018). Pupillometry and multimodal processing of beat gesture and pitch accent: The eye’s hole is greater than the sum of its parts. In C. Kalish, M. Rau, J. Zhu, & T. Rogers (Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., MacWhinney, B., & Gibbs, R. W. (2012). The role of gesture in second language word learning: acquisition, communication, and retention. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., MacWhinney, B., & Gibbs, R. W. (2012). The effects of mental imagery and embodied action on L2 word learning. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M. (2012). How the hands cue the mind: the effects of iconicity and enactment on sign language acquisition. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. (PDF)


    Morett, L. M., Landi, N., Irwin, J., & McPartland, J.C. (under review). N400 magnitude and coherence reflect temporal integration of beat gesture and pitch accent during language processing.


    In my spare time, I enjoy the following activities:

    Google map of travels


    I studied abroad in Ecuador (2006), conducted research in Singapore (2010) and Japan (2012), and recently returned from a trip to the UK. I hope to visit continental Europe or China next!

    Lobster roll, RI clam chowder, Sally's apizza, angel food grilled cheese dessert


    I cook and eat all types of food and have a particular affinity for local specialties. I'm a huge BBQ aficionado and am in the process of determining the best BBQ in Western Alabama!

    Scene from Phantom of the Opera musical


    I enjoy attending many types of shows, including musicals, concerts, and opera. Some of my favorites are Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, and Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas.

    Licorice and Marshmallow on the cat tree


    I have two rescued cats: a black female named Licorice and a white male named Marshmallow. Their favorite pastimes include birdwatching, napping, and following me around.