Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Life Sciences - Department of Psychology

BSc MSc Uta Sassenberg

BSc MSc Uta Sassenberg
u.sassenberg (at)

Visiting address
Rudower Chaussee 16 , Room 0'216
Phone number
(030) 2093 9397

PhD student (funded by Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)

Curriculum Vitae

1999-2002 Psychology & Criminology degree, University of Lincoln, UK (BSc(Hons))
Bachelor dissertation: Motion components and frames of reference in gesture and speech: A cognitive comparison
2003-2004 Psycholinguistics degree, University of Edinburgh, UK (MSc)
Master thesis: A tip-of-the-tongue study in German: Partial access to initial letter, gender and count/mass distinction
since 2005 PhD student, Humboldt University Berlin
PhD project: Production of co-speech gestures
since 2007 PhD student, Berlin School of Mind and Brain

PhD Project

Production of spontaneous gestures

Why do we gesture when we speak? Gestures have a communicative function and are produced for listeners (Kendon, 1980, 2004; McNeill, 1992, 2005) but also for the speakers themselves to facilitate thinking processes (Hostetter & Alibali, 2004; Kita, 2000; Wagner Cook, 2006; Wagner, Nusbaum & Goldin-Meadow, 2004). However, we don't know the specific functions of different kinds of gestures in different situations and their underlying mechanisms. I am investigating different types of gestures asking different questions: (1) how task demand affects gesture production, (2) vice versa: how gesture production affects the performance in a task, and (3) what role do individual differences play in cognitive skills and personality in gesture behaviour?

Particularly, I am interested in spatial utterances in speech and gesture: giving directions and employing frames of reference or perspectives in language and in gesture.


2006  PhD funding: NaFÖG (Gesetz zur Förderung des wissenschaftlichen und
          künstlerischen Nachwuchses)
2006 - 2009 PhD funding: Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes
2007  Funding for a research visit for 3 months at the Susan Goldin-Meadow
          Lab, University of Chicago, USA (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)
2007  Funding for a research visit for 2 weeks at the University of
          Lincoln, UK (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes)
2009  PhD funding: Berlin School of Mind and Brain


2005/2006 Introduction to Research Skills
Since 2006 Supervision of research projects and final theses ("Diplomarbeit")

Research interests

  • 'Cognitive' function of gestures
  • Individual differences in gesture production
  • Spatial reference (in language and gesture) and spatial concepts