Links between language and action

Current approaches to embodied cognition assume that language is integrated into a framework of shared representations, along with action perception and action production. Thus, language is assumed to be grounded in bodily states and based on physical or imagined interactions with the environment.

In this research area I am investigating: Does language help in action prediction? Does action production help in word learning? Do we learn actions from good speakers or words from good craftsmen?

We study when children reach milestones in the domain of motor development, cognition and social skills and relate them to the growth of vocabulary and grammar. Discover your child’s world:


Behavior Research Methods

36-month-olds learned the labels of complex actions by observation and action imitation, whereas 30-month-olds learned the labels only in the action imitation but not in the observation condition. Action imitation is thus beneficial for verb learning early in life. 

Gampe, Brauer, & Daum (2016)

European Journal of Developmental Psychology

Language shows a disruptive influence on action perception at 12 months and a facilitating influence at 24 months. In the beginning, language is an additional cue that is increasingly integrated into perception.

Gampe & Daum (2014)


Infants learn new words equally well whether they were directly addressed or have to eavesdrop on two adults.

Gampe, Liebal, & Tomasello (2012)

First Language

We study how children learn new words and new actions from differently competent adult models. We investigate, if children learn novel words from incompetent speakers or novel actions from incompetent action models.

Brehm, Gampe, & Daum

in preparation

Michelle Loher (2021 – Spring) KleineWeltentdecker App. Verband Aargauer Psychologinnen und Psychologen

Karin Moertel (2020 – March) Psycholog(inn)en der Universität Zürich entwickeln App zur kindlichen Entwicklung. Kantonalverband der Zürcher Psychologinnen und Psychologen

(2019-11-25) App zu Entwicklungsschritten. Oekotest

(2019-11-06) kleine Weltentdecker App Universität Zürich. Psychoscope

Katharina Ledergerber (2017-06-02) Verbs link action to language. Blog on Learning and Development

Daum, M.M., Bleiker, M., Wermelinger, S., Kurthen, I., Maffongelli, L., Antognini, K., Beisert, M. & Gampe, A. (2022). The kleineWeltentdecker App – A Smartphone-Based Developmental Diary. Behavior Research Methods.

Gampe, A., Brauer, J., & Daum, M. M. (2016). Imitation is beneficial for verb learning in toddlers. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 13(5), 594–613.

Daum, M. M., Mani, N., & Gampe, A. (2016). Special Issue on the “Interrelations between non-linguistic and linguistic representations of cognition and action in development.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 151, 1–4.

Gampe, A., & Daum, M. M. (2014). Productive Verbs Facilitate Action Prediction in Toddlers. Infancy, 19(3), 301–325.

Gampe, A., Liebal, K., & Tomasello, M. (2012). Eighteen-month-olds learn novel words through overhearing. First Language, 32(3), 385–397.

Max-Planck-Society PhD Scholarship

Swiss National Science Foundation: Scope of credibility: Children’s selective trust in action and language learning