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Spencer Kelly
Spencer Kelly, PhD

Language is the ultimate human invention; the tool that makes all other tools.


Colgate University

About Spencer Kelly

Spencer Kelly is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience as well as a codirector of the Center for Language and Brain at Colgate University. He earned his PhD and MA in Developmental Psychology from the University of Chicago, and he received his BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis. He also completed a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship in developmental neuroscience at the University of Louisville.


At Colgate University, Professor Kelly teaches on topics related to language, brain, and development. He has been a visiting scholar at the University of Washington and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands. The Princeton Review has recognized him as one of America’s top 300 professors.


Professor Kelly is the president of the International Society for Gesture Studies. His expertise focuses on how the body shapes language and thought in children and adults. Professor Kelly has published more than 50 papers in scientific journals, and his research has been funded by the National Science Foundation. He coedited the book Why Gesture? How the Hands Function in Speaking, Thinking and Communicating. His work has been featured in various media outlets, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Scientific American.

By This Professor

Language and the Mind