Makeba P. Wilbourn

Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Faculty Fellow of the Center for Child and Family Policy

Makeba Wilbourn's 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, her research addresses three key theoretical questions. First, how does cognition influence language early in development? In particular, she is 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. Second, how does language come to influence cognition in children and adults? In this line of research, she is 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.

Research Interests:

  • Child Development
  • Early Childhood
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Ph.D. Cornell University - 2008
  • M.A. California State University, Fullerton - 2001
  • B.A. California State University, Fullerton - 1997

Recent Publications (More Publications)

  • Wilbourn, MP; Casasola, M (2012) Hand me a cue: Developmental changes in infants’ associative word learning abilities Developmental Psychology,
  • Kalia, V; Wilbourn, MP; Ghio, K (2012) Age of second language acquisition and language proficiency interactively influence bilinguals’ cognition Bilingualism: Cognition & Language,
  • Robertson, SS; Watamura, SE; Wilbourn, MP (2012) Attentional dynamics of infant visual foraging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109, 11460-11464, [doi], [abs]
  • Wilbourn, MP; Sims, JP (2013) 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, 14, 250-269, [doi], [abs]
  • Wilbourn, MP; Kurtz, LE; Kalia, V (2012) The Lexical Stroop Sort (LSS) picture-word task: a computerized task for assessing the relationship between language and executive functioning in school-aged children. Behavior Research Methods, 44, 270-286, [21853409], [doi], [abs]
  • Wilbourn, MP; Gottfried, AW; Kee, DW (2011) Consistency of hand-preference across the early years: long-term relationship to verbal intelligence and reading achievement in girls. Developmental Psychology, 47, 931-942, [21574699], [doi], [abs]
  • Wilbourn, MP; Casasola, M (2007) Discriminating signs: perceptual precursors to acquiring a visual-gestural language. Infant Behavior & Development, 30, 153-160, [doi], [abs]
  • Casasola, M; Wilbourn, MP; Yang, S (2006) Can English-learning toddlers acquire and generalize a novel spatial word? First Language, 26, 187-205, [doi], [abs]
  • Casasola, M; Wilbourn, MP (2004) Fourteen-month-old infants form novel word-spatial relation associations Infancy, 6, 385-396, , [abs]
  • Gottfried, A.W., Gottfried, A.E., Bathurst, K., Guerin, D.W., & Parramore, M.(2003). (2003) Socioeconomic status in children’s development and family environment: Infancy through adolescence. In M. Bornstein & R. Bradley (Eds.)
  • Hersberger, S., Marcoulides, G., & Parramore, M. (2002). (2002) Introduction to structural equation modeling techniques. In Pugesek, B., Tomer, A., von Eye, A. (Eds.)