Play & Communication Lab

About PacLab

PacLab is the research group of Professor Jenny Gibson at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. We investigate human development, flourishing and neurodiversity. We also conduct research about specific neurodivergent groups, specialising in autism and developmental language disorder. Our work is rooted in developmental psychology and we have many interdisciplinary influences including; disability studies, linguistics, computer science, psychiatry, literary studies and education.

Play is a major research focus in the PacLab group. We are investigating how this ubiquitous, yet often-overlooked, aspect of human experience is linked to mental health, wellbeing, social development and linguistic development. We are especially interested in over-turning deficit focused narratives concerning neurodivergence and play.  

Participatory research is a guiding value in our team. We aim to include and amplify the voices and perspectives of under-represented groups.

We use diverse research methodologies, including working with tools such as AI (LLMs, computer vision) and sensors. We use quantitative methods such as SEM with large, longitudinal datasets and also qualitative methods such as arts-based inquiry, ethnography, and phenomenology. This methodological eclecticism reflects the (neuro)diversity of our team and the open-mindedness we hold about the best ways to learn more about neurodivergence, mental health, language and play. As our work is rooted in psychology, we tend to take an empirical approach, basing analyses on systematic observation and exploration, theory development and hypothesis testing as appropriate.

Recent work in focus: