I'm a cognitive scientist studying human communication in all its diversity. I’m particularly interested in gestures, metaphors, and conceptual systems. I ask how these vary across cultures, what functions they serve, and what they tell us about being human. Past projects have involved experiments in the lab; analyses of multimodal corpora and ethnographic databases; and fieldwork in Papua New Guinea.



July 2019 – Read our new article on the evolution of measurement units across cultures.

July 2019 – I presented a lecture at the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute on ‘Human cognitive diversity: What it is, how to study it, and why it matters.’

January 2019 – Read my essay for Aeon about the global loss of human cognitive diversity.

January 2019 – Check out our new study comparing pointing gestures and pointing signs.

July 2018 – I was in Madison, Wisconsin for CogSci 2018. I presented new work with Dedre Gentner on the historical development of measurement units. Read the proceedings paper here

July 2018 – I was in Cape Town, South Africa for the 8th meeting of the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS). I presented two talks as part of the special focus on the 'Anthropology of Gesture.'

June 2018 – Check out our new review article on the meanings and origins of palm-up gestures.


Popular writing

January 2019. What happens to cognitive diversity when everyone is more WEIRD? Aeon.

May 2018. From pointing to nodding: Is gesture a universal language? Aeon.

February 2018. The way humans point isn't as universal as you might thinkThe Conversation. 

May 2017. Making the rounds. Science.

November 2016. How we make sense of timeScientific American–Mind. (w/ Rafael Núñez)

October 2016. Framing the world in terms of “left” and “right” is stranger than you thinkNautilus (blog).

March 2016. Why natural selection became Darwin’s fittest metaphor for evolutionNautilus (blog).

For more info, check out the rest of this site, see my CV, send me an email (kensy at, or find me on Twitter: @kensycoop