School of Psychology

World-leading research and teaching

Dr Kirsten Abbot-Smith

Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Programme Director for MSc Developmental Psychology




My main current research interest focuses on pragmatic language development, that is how children learn to access their listener’s mental perspective during communication. I am particularly interested in how this process intersects with theory-of-mind representation, executive functions and structural language processing, both in typically-developing pre-schoolers and in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. To investigate structural language processing in two- and three-year-olds, I have used both eye-tracking and forced-choice pointing measures. I also have research interests concerning the development of accurate language screening measures for use by early years’ practitioners, particularly in the case of bilingual children.

Key publications

  • Malkin, L., Abbot-Smith, K., Williams, D., & Ayling, J. (2018) When do children with Autism Spectrum Disorder take common ground into account during communication? Autism Research doi: 10.1002/aur.2007
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Morawska-Patera, P., Łuniewska, M., Spruce, M, & Haman, E. (2018) Using parental questionnaires to investigate the heritage language proficiency of bilingual children. Child Language Teaching and Therapy doi: 10.1177/0265659018780958
  • Abbot-Smith, K., Chang, F., Rowland, C., Ferguson, H., & Pine, J. (2017). Do two and three year old children use an incremental first-noun-as-agent bias to process active transitive and passive sentences?: A permutation analysis. PloSOne DOI:
  • Dittmar, M., Abbot-Smith, K., Lieven, E., & Tomasello, M. (2014). Familiar verbs are not always easier than novel verbs: How German pre-school children comprehend active and passive sentences. Cognitive Science,38: 128-151 DOI: 10.1111/cogs.12066


School of Psychology - Keynes College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NP

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Last Updated: 30/01/2019