Dr Yan Gu

Department of Psychology
Dr Yan Gu
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 874945

  • Location

    1.702C, Colchester Campus



I obtained my PhD in psycholinguistics at Tilburg University, Netherlands. After being a postdoc and research fellow at the UCL Language and Cognition Lab, I joined the University of Essex in 2022. My research mainly covers two areas, including the perception of time and the impact of language use. For time, I have investigated the cross-linguistic/cultural differences in the spatialisation of time (gestures, signs, and eye movements), and my studies aim to better understand the relationship between time perception, decisions, health and well-being. I study language as a multimodal phenomenon (e.g., speech, text, gestures, intonation, gazing), and investigate the impact of using language on different aspects, such as (1) does language shape thought? (2) child-directed language and children's word learning; (3) the effect of immigrants' language proficiency on economic outcomes; (4) and research connecting language use and other fields. I also do interdisciplinary research together with economists and social scientists on topics such as aging and immigrants' pension planning, five big personality traits, (illicit) drug use, psychology and marketing, etc.


  • PhD in Psycholinguistics Communication and Information Science, Tilburg University, (2018)

  • Research master Language & Communication Radboud & Tilburg University, (2012)

  • Master of Linguistics Radboud University Nijmegen, (2011)

  • BA English pedagogy Nantong University, (2009)


University of Essex

  • Lecturer, University of Essex (1/4/2022 - present)

Other academic

  • Honorary research fellow, University College London (1/4/2022 - present)

  • Research fellow, University College London (1/9/2019 - 31/3/2022)

  • Post doc, University College London (15/2/2018 - 31/8/2019)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Perception of time

Key words: bilingualism
Open to supervise

Child language acquistion

Open to supervise

Language and thought

Open to supervise

Immigrants and migration

Open to supervise

Aging and pension planning

Open to supervise

Language and economics

Open to supervise

Cross-cultural / linguistics comparison

Open to supervise

Multimodal communication

Gesture and prosody

Drug use and well-being

Chinese Sign Language

Open to supervise

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Applied Psychology (PS118)

  • Developmental Psychology (PS406)

  • Psychology of Global Challenges (PS424)

  • Psychology in the Real World (PS516)

  • MSc Psychology Research Project (PS900)


Publications (5)

Zheng, Y., Gu, Y. and van Soest, A., Beyond financial knowledge and IQ: The effect of temporal values on pension planning, homeownership and financial wealth of natives and immigrants in the Netherlands

Zheng, Y., Gu, Y., Backus, A. and van Soest, A., Host language proficiency has a causal effect on immigrants’ income, savings and financial wealth

Zheng, Y., Gu, Y. and van Soest, A., Time to get attention: The effect of temporal focus on health, income and happiness

Zheng, Y., LIN, HAO. and Gu, Y., The value of sign and print: Language proficiency predicts deaf signers’ occupational prestige and income

Zheng, Y., Gu, Y. and van Soest, A., Who is taking drugs and what are the consequences ?: Understanding influences of psychological and demographic factors on drug consumption and its impact on health, labour market performance and financial wealth

Journal articles (8)

Lin, H. and Gu, Y., (2022). “Hold infinity in the palm of your hand.” A functional description of time expressions through fingers based on Chinese Sign Language naturalistic data. Language and Cognition. 14 (1), 61-84

Callizo-Romero, C., Tutnjević, S., Pandza, M., Ouellet, M., Kranjec, A., Ilić, S., Gu, Y., Göksun, T., Chahboun, S., Casasanto, D. and Santiago, J., (2022). Does time extend asymmetrically into the past and the future? A multitask crosscultural study. Language and Cognition. 14 (2), 275-302

Shi, J., Gu, Y. and Vigliocco, G., (2022). Prosodic modulations in child-directed language and their impact on word learning. Developmental Science. 26 (4), e13357-

Swerts, M., Gu, Y. and Boerrigter, T., (2022). Yes or No: How children combine gestures and speech to express honest and deceiving attitude. Stem-, Spraak- en Taalpathologie. 27, 206-222

Callizo-Romero, C., Tutnjević, S., Pandza, M., Ouellet, M., Kranjec, A., Ilić, S., Gu, Y., Göksun, T., Chahboun, S., Casasanto, D. and Santiago, J., (2020). Temporal focus and time spatialization across cultures. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 27 (6), 1247-1258

Gu, Y., Zheng, Y. and Swerts, M., (2019). Which Is in Front of Chinese People, Past or Future? The Effect of Language and Culture on Temporal Gestures and Spatial Conceptions of Time. Cognitive Science. 43 (12), e12804-

GU, YAN., ZHENG, Y. and SWERTS, M., (2019). Having a different pointing of view about the future: The effect of signs on co-speech gestures about time in Mandarin–CSL bimodal bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 22 (04), 836-847

Gu, Y., Mol, L., Hoetjes, M. and Swerts, M., (2017). Conceptual and lexical effects on gestures: the case of vertical spatial metaphors for time in Chinese. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. 32 (8), 1048-1063

Book chapters (1)

Gu, Y., (2022). Time in Chinese hands Gesture and sign. In: Time Representations in the Perspective of Human Creativity. Editors: Piata, A., Adriana, G. and Carrión, DA., . John Benjamins Publishing Company. 209- 232. 9027257418. 9789027257413

Conferences (2)

Xi, Z., Gu, Y. and Vigliocco, G., Speaking Rate in 3-4-Year-Old Children: Its Correlation with Gesture Rate and Word Learning

Donnellan, E., Özder, LE., Man, H., Grzyb, B., Gu, Y. and Vigliocco, G., (2022). Timing relationships between representational gestures and speech: A corpus based investigation

+44 (0) 1206 874945


1.702C, Colchester Campus

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