People

Lab Director

Jamil Zaki

Jamil received his BA from Boston University, his Ph.D. from Columbia University, and postdoctoral training at Harvard University. Now that he’s in the Bay Area, his hobbies include compulsive hiking, eating avocados, and trying to remember how to drive again.

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  • Lab Manager

    Marissa Clark

    Marissa received her B.S. in Cognitive Science with a minor in Neuroscience from UCLA. She is interested in studying how people perceive the world around them using sophisticated methods and statistical techniques. Having grown up in LA, she takes the beach for granted but enjoys dog-spotting on Stanford's campus and taking Stanford's fitness classes, including ballet and gymnastics.

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  • Postdoctoral Fellows

    Leor Hackel

    Leor Hackel received his B.S. from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from New York University. His research examines the intersection of learning, social cognition, and decision-making: he studies how people learn about other people through interaction, and how people make decisions guided by social knowledge and motives. His research uses behavioral experiments, computational modeling, and neuroimaging approaches to explore these questions.

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  • Alison Mattek

    Alison studied music as an undergraduate at the University of Miami FL (BS in Music Engineering) and as a master's student at Dartmouth College (MA in Digital Musics). She stayed at Dartmouth to complete a PhD in Psychological and Brain Sciences, trained by Paul J. Whalen and George Wolford. Her research focuses on building models of emotion that are based on measurements of behavior and physiology (including neuroimaging data).

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  • Graduate Students

    Erika Weisz

    Erika received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Vermont, where she worked in the labs of Professors Annie Murray-Close and Jom Hammack. Following graduation, she spent two years at the MGH/Harvard Center for Addiction Medicine working as a clinical research coordinator for Dr. Eden Evins. Erika is interested in studying the flexibility of empathy by examining how changes in motivations drive people toward or away from empathy. She is also interested in designing and testing empathy interventions. In her spare time, Erika loves painting, playing board games and befriending neighborhood cats.

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  • Yuan Chang Leong

    Yuan Chang graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from Princeton University, where he worked with Professor Yael Niv and Professor Uri Hasson. He combines behavioral experiments, computational modeling and neuroimaging to study the neural basis of socio-cognitive processes. He is particularly interested in how cognitive mechanisms interact with the social environment to give rise to everyday behavior. Yuan Chang grew up in the city-state of Singapore, and there's nothing he craves more than authentic South-east Asian food. 

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  • Tyler Bonnen

    After transferring from Miami-Dade Community College, Tyler studied chemistry and comparative literature at Columbia University. He went on to the Max-Planck Institute in Leipzig, working with Daniel Margulies, before moving to the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, at MIT, working with Rebecca Saxe. Broadly speaking, he's used multivariate analyses (MVPA, RSA, MVPC) of human neuroimaging data (fMRI, fNIRS) to study the representational architecture of social cognition. Originally from Miami, Tyler's an older brother, with a love for science and a commitment to social justice.

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  • Research Assistants

    Isabella Kahhale

    Isabella received her B.S. in Cognitive & Brain Sciences from Tufts University, along with a minor in English and a certificate in Ethics, Law, & Society. She loves cooking, talking during movies, working out, and undoing her workouts with her uncontrollable sweet tooth.

    Roma Dziembaj

    Roma Dziembaj is a sophomore from Poland majoring in Symbolic Systems. She is interested in how motivated perception influences decision making in everyday life. Outside of school, Roma enjoys costume designing for theater productions, embroidery, and using product design for social good.

    Virsaviya Efraim

    Always asking 'why', Virsaviya lets her curiosity guide the way. After finishing Western New England University with a BA in psychology, she moved abroad to explore the world and teach English as a foreign language. In 2015 she pivoted to software engineering with an eye towards bringing more technology to psychological research and treatments when she goes for her PhD in Clinical Psychology. Today, however, she works as a software engineer by day and organizes talks for the Psych & Tech meetup by night. When not immersed in psychology or technology, Virsaviya can be found catching up on her favorite shows, cooking up a feast with her housemates or on an adventure exploring California.

    Samantha Kargilis

    Born and raised in Michigan, Sam is an undergraduate student at Stanford majoring in Human Biology with a concentration in Human Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience. Her research interests include prosocial behavior, empathy-building interventions, and the neural basis of social cognition. In her free time, Sam loves singing a cappella with Stanford Mixed Company, writing, and watching reality television.

    Preeti Kakani

    Born and raised on Long Island, Preeti is an undergraduate student at Stanford intending to study neuroscience. Her research interests include the neural bases of empathy and social cognition, as well as the means by which social cognition influences behavior. In her spare time, Preeti enjoys singing a cappella with the Stanford Harmonics, jogging, playing chess and watching Netflix.

    Amanda Szerdi

    Amanda is a prospective Psychology major at Stanford University. She was born and raised in the high desert region of Southern California, but she has also lived in Mexico and Ecuador. Her research interests include topics regarding social cognition and emotion regulation. Amanda loves being outside, watercolor painting, drinking hot chocolate, and reading lots of books.

    Recent Alumni

    Ryan Carlson

    Ryan was a full-time research assistant in the SSNL from 2015-2017. He studies the motivational forces that promote (and impede) prosocial behavior using behavioral experiments and neuroimaging. Ryan is now pursuing his PhD in the Department of Psychology at Yale.

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  • Emma Templeton

    Emma was the lab manager from 2014 to 2016. Her contributions to the lab included: award-winning Halloween costumes, sarcasm, and goldfish crackers. Emma is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth.

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  • Diana Tamir

    Diana worked as a postdoc in the SSNL from 2014-2015. She studies how people think about their own minds and the minds of other people using functional neuroimaging, machine learning, and behavioral methods. Diana is now an assistant professor of Psychology at Princeton University.

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  • Brent Hughes

    Brent Hughes worked as a postdoc in the SSNL from 2012-2016 Brent received his B.S. from the University of Michigan, worked as a lab manager at Columbia University, and then earned his Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin. His work broadly focuses on motivated reasoning in social cognition and the biases that arise in self- and social- perception. How is it that we come to see ourselves in an overly flattering light? How do we extend this tendency to people we care about and people with whom we share aspects of our identity (in-group members)? And, how do these tendencies impact real-world decisions and interactions? He examines these kinds of questions using a combination of behavioral and neuroimaging methods. Brent started working an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside in January. Contact Brent if you are interested in working with him!

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  • Sylvia Morelli

    Sylvia worked as a postdoc in the SSNL from 2012-2015. She examines the neural and behavioral basis of empathy and perspective-taking, as well as the neural responses associated with feeling understood by others. Her recent research explores how positive empathy (i.e., empathizing with others' positive and rewarding experiences) enhances social relationships and promotes happiness. Sylvia is now an assistant professor of psychology at University of Illinois at Chicago.

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  • Craig Williams

    Craig received his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he worked with Professors John Curtin and Hill Goldsmith. Following graduation, he completed post-baccalaureate training in cognitive neuroscience with Dr. James Blair at the National Institute of Mental Health. Craig’s research examines interpersonal emotion regulation – how we regulate our own and others’ emotions through social contact. To this end, he also studies the motivational features of affiliation and affective communication. Outside the lab, Craig can be found running, reading, and inevitably napping beneath palm trees.

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  • Desmond Ong

    Desmond graduated with a BA in Economics and Physics from Cornell University, and did research for a year in Singapore before coming to Stanford. Desmond is interested in studying emotions in the context of decision making and social cognition, via computational modeling and behavioral experiments. He's also interested in prosociality, and in behavioral and neuro-economics.

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  • Rucha Makati

    Rucha worked in the SSNL for two years. Rucha is continuing the work she started here as Sylvia Morelli's lab manager at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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  • Lab Babies

    Luisa Zaki

    Luisa graduated from Uterine University in March of 2017, with a double major in cuteness and crying. Since then, she's focused mainly on studying faces and learning to swallow avocado. She hopes to soon expand her studies to independent locomotion with the help of her senior colleague, Alma.

    Alma Zaki

    Alma recently completed a two year masters program in Baby, and is now continuing on to a doctorate in Toddler with a specialization in Mayhem. She is rapidly becoming a linguistic savant, especially when it comes to issuing commands. In her free time, she enjoys mentoring her junior colleague, Luisa, and most of the time remembers not to sit on her.

    Danielle Hackel

    Dani received her certificate of birth in June, 2016. She enjoys studying people, specializing in those with high-contrast faces, and takes a hands-on approach. She has attended conferences on decision making (2016) and cognitive therapy (in utero). Hobbies include music and milk.

    Group Photos