Greg Woodin Headshot

I'm Greg Woodin, an ESRC-funded linguist and cognitive scientist studying for a PhD in English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham, UK.

My research focuses on metaphorical thought processes, especially those where there is an association between space and some other domain, such as numerical quantity or emotional valence. I investigate these thought processes experimentally and through corpus studies where I analyse how speakers in the TV News Archive gesture when they use certain metaphors in their speech.

In a more applied context, I look at how spatial metaphors can either aid or impede understanding of different data visualisations, such as bar charts. An overarching theme in my work is the idea that metaphorical thinking involves mental simulation of a metaphor’s source domain, such as space. My PhD research focuses on numerical cognition and how to effectively communicate about numbers.


Distinction in Social Research

University of Birmingham

MA by Research

English Language & Applied Linguistics

University of Birmingham

BA (hons.)

First class degree in English Language

University of Birmingham


2020 • PLOS One

Woodin, G., Winter, B., Perlman, M., Littlemore, J. & Matlock, T.

'Tiny numbers' are actually tiny: Evidence from gestures in the TV News Archive

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Using the TV News Archive, we showed that, generally, the hands of gesturers mirror the size-based frame implied by concurrent speech (e.g., a closed-hand gesture for the phrase 'tiny number'). This paper is the first large-scale, quantitative demonstration that the TV News Archive can provide a unique window into metaphorical thought.

under review • IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics

Woodin, G., Winter, B. & Padilla, L.

Conceptual metaphor and graphical convention influence the interpretation of data visualisations

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We investigated the effect of axis inversion on graph interpretability with an empirical study in which participants were asked questions about line graphs depicting good (vacation days) and bad (murders) quantities. Alignment of graphs with valence metaphors positively affected graph interpretability, all else being equal. However, the positive effect of valence alignment did not outweigh the overall adverse effect of axis inversion. Furthermore, graphs depicting positive quantities were generally easier to interpret than graphs depicting negative quantities.

2019 • Ad Alta: the Birmingham Journal of Literature, 10: 35.

Woodin, G.


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2018 • Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 2169: 1-14

Woodin, G. & Winter, B.

Placing abstract concepts in space: Quantity, time and emotional valence

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In a task where participants placed words in space, participants preferred the vertical axis for quantity words and valence words, and the horizontal axis for numerals and time words. Across all tasks, participants tended to use specific axes (horizontal, vertical), rather than combining these two axes in diagonal responses. These results shed light on the spatial nature of abstract thought.

2018 • Ad Alta: the Birmingham Journal of Literature, 9: 27.

Woodin, G.


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  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2015
  • 2014

Constance Naden Medal

Given to the student who submits the highest quality thesis for the MPhil/MRes/MA by Research degree across the College of Arts and Law.

Awarded ESRC Midlands Graduate School DTP Studentship

Annual payment consists of course fees (£4,260) and a maintenance award (£14,777).

Offered AHRC Midlands3Cities DTP Studentship

£14,777 course fees + £4,260 maintenance award

Highly Commended in Language & Linguistics.

The Undergraduate Awards Programme 2017.

College of Arts & Law Masters MA by Research Scholarship.

English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham, 2017/18. £4,195.

Gwyneth Fox Award.

Awarded to the student with the highest mark overall (80.291) enrolled on the English Language or the English Language and Linguistics single honours programmes. £250.

Vera Adamson Prize

Given to the first year undergraduate deemed to have produced “the most outstanding work in the field of Modern English Language”. £100.

Sonnenschein Prize

Given to “first year students whose performance in their examinations is deemed to be of sufficient merit”. £75.

Notting Hill Editions Essay Prize 2015

Longlisted amongst names such as Hilary Mantel.

Awarded Access to Birmingham (A2B) Scholarship for undergraduate study.


Unconditional offer for undergraduate study in BA English Language.

University of Birmingham


Greg Woodin presenting at a conference
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    The 5th International Conference on Figurative Thought and Language

    ‘Tiny numbers are actually tiny: Gestural evidence from the TV News Archive’

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    UK Cognitive Linguistics Conference 2020

    ‘The effect of conceptual metaphors on the interpretation of data visualisations’

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    Language and Cognition at Birmingham 2020

    ‘More is mostly up: Vertical trumps horizontal in spatial metaphors for quantity’

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    The 12th International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature 2019

    ‘Degrees of metaphoricity: a large-scale, quantitative analysis of iconic gestures in the TV News Archive’

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    Birmingham English Language Postgraduate Conference 2019

    ‘Degrees of metaphoricity: a large-scale, quantitative analysis of gestures in the TV News Archive’

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    The Creative Power of Metaphor 2019

    ‘Degrees of metaphoricity: a quantitative gesture analysis’

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    Spatial Cognition 2018

    ‘Placing abstract concepts in space: quantity, time and emotional valence’

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    Figurative Language: Experimental and Corpus-Based Studies 2018

    ‘Thinking metaphorically: what do figurative language and metaphoric gestures reveal about thought?’

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    TALK • Hong Kong Polytechnic University

    Researching and Applying Metaphor 2018

    ‘The continuity of metaphor? Horizontal and vertical metaphors in the spatialization of time, quantity and valence’. Fully funded by School of English, Drama, American and Canadian Studies (£575) and College of Arts & Law Graduate School PG Research Support Fund (£280).

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    Research Poster Conference 2018

    ‘Thinking metaphorically: what do language and gesture reveal about thought?’

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    TALK • University of Birmingham

    Birmingham English Language Postgraduate Conference 2018

    ‘Metaphors of space: recent developments and new questions in Conceptual Metaphor Theory’