Dr Robin Thompson PhD

Dr Robin Thompson

School of Psychology
Associate Professor

Contact details

School of Psychology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Robin Thompson is a cognitive psychologist interested in the underlying nature of human language (both signed and spoken) and, in particular, how language is related to other aspects of cognition.

Research group website


BA, Linguistics, California State University of Northridge
MA Linguistics, University of California, San Diego
PhD Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego


Robin Thompson worked as a sign language interpreter and teacher before receiving her MA in Linguistics and then her PhD in Cognitive Science and Linguistics at University of California, San Diego.

She has worked at The Salk Institute (Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience) and at San Diego State University (Laboratory for Language and Cognitive Neuroscience) with Professor Karen Emmorey and at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre at UCL.

Postgraduate supervision

Please email if you are interested in pursuing research (at any level) in multimodal communication, sign language research, linguistics, psycholinguistics or language and cognition.


Scopus ID: 26533479100

Our understanding of language is changing from a view of language as a system separated from other aspects of cognition, to one in which language is understood to be highly integrated with (and dependent on) other cognitive systems. Robin’s research deals with the interaction and dependency of language on different aspects of human cognition, with a particular focus on the relationship between language (both in terms of acquisition and processing) and modality.

For more information see the Research group website


Recent publications


Watkins, F, Abdlkarim, D, Winter, B & Thompson, RL 2024, 'Viewing angle matters in British Sign Language processing', Scientific Reports, vol. 14, no. 1, 1043. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-51330-1

Mann, W, O’Neill, R, Watkins, F & Thompson, RL 2023, 'Reading online in deaf and hearing young people: Do differences exist?', Deafness and Education International. https://doi.org/10.1080/14643154.2023.2207860

Watkins, F, Webb, S, Stone, C & Thompson, RL 2022, 'Language aptitude in the visuospatial modality: L2 British Sign Language acquisition and cognitive skills in British Sign Language-English interpreting students', Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 13, 932370. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.932370

Kumcu, A & Thompson, RL 2022, 'Remembering spatial words: Sensorimotor simulation affects verbal recognition memory', Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, vol. 75, no. 9, pp. 1694 - 1710. https://doi.org/10.1177/17470218211059011

Frank, SL, Ernst, P, Thompson, RL & Cozijn , R 2021, 'The missing-VP effect in readers of English as a second language', Memory and Cognition, vol. 49, no. 6, pp. 1204-1219. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-021-01159-0

Perlman, M, Little, H, Thompson, B & Thompson, RL 2018, 'Iconicity in Signed and Spoken Vocabulary: A Comparison Between American Sign Language, British Sign Language, English, and Spanish', Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, 1433. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01433

Kumcu, A & Thompson, RL 2018, 'Less imageable words lead to more looks to blank locations during memory retrieval', Psychological Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-018-1084-6

Thompson, R, England, R, Bencie, W, Lu, J, Kat, M & Gary, M 2017, 'Deaf and hearing children’s picture naming: impact of age of acquisition and language modality on representational gesture', LIA Language, Interaction and Acquisition, vol. 8, no. 1. <https://benjamins.com/#catalog/journals/lia.8.1.04tho/details>

Huck, A, Thompson, RL, Cruice, M & Marshall, J 2017, 'Effects of word frequency and contextual predictability on sentence reading in aphasia: an eye movement analysis', Aphasiology. https://doi.org/10.1080/02687038.2017.1278741

Huck, A, Thompson, RL, Cruice, M & Marshall, J 2017, 'The influence of sense-contingent argument structure frequencies on ambiguity resolution in aphasia', Neuropsychologia, vol. 100, pp. 171-194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.03.031

Watkins, F & Thompson, R 2017, 'The relationship between sign production and sign comprehension: what handedness reveals', Cognition, vol. 164, pp. 144-149. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.03.019

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Thompson, R & Gutierrez, E 2019, Bimodal bilingualism: A unique window into the multilingual brain. in JW Schwieter (ed.), The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism., 36, Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 754-783.

Thompson, R 2016, Psycholinguistics: Primary. in G Gertz & P Boudreault (eds), The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, USA, pp. 744-747.


Dye, M & Thompson, R 2020, Perception and production of language in the visual modality: Implications for sign language development. in Understanding Deafness, Language and Cognitive Development: Essays in honour of Bencie Woll. vol. 25, Trends in Language Acquisition Research, vol. 25, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 133-157.

Thompson, RL & Gutierrez‐Sigut, E 2019, Speech‐Sign Bilingualism: A Unique Window into the Multilingual Brain. in The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism. Wiley-VCH Verlag, pp. 754-783. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119387725.ch36

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