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


accepted • IEEE Transactions on Visualizations and Computer Graphics

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

Conceptual metaphor and graphical convention influence the interpretation of line graphs

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We conducted two experiments (N = 300 per experiment) where participants answered questions about line graphs depicting good and bad quantities. Our results suggest that conceptual metaphors matter for the interpretation of line graphs. However, designers of line graphs are warned against subverting graphical convention to align with conceptual metaphors.

2021 • Journal of Cognition

Perlman, M. & Woodin, G.

A complete real-world theory of language should explain how iconicity remains a stable property of linguistic systems

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We argue that it is a misconception that languages generally become more arbitrary over time. Although many words and signs certainly do become less iconic, all evidence suggests that languages do not.

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.

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.


  • 2021
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2015
  • 2014

HPC-Europa3 Transnational Access Funding

Awarded funding (travel, accommodation, and subsistence) to undertake 10-week research visit to Dr Peter Uhrig at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg.

HEFi Horizon Award

Awarded for completing five modules relating to higher education teaching.

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