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

    Natalie Samuels

    Natalie received her B.A. in Psychology with a Health and Development specialization from Stanford University. She is interested in using computational approaches to shed light on the relationship between psychopathology and the expression and experience of empathy. When she's not in the lab, Natalie can be found backpacking across California, picnicking in a San Francisco park, playing with her cat, or sweating it out at spin or yoga.

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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

    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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  • 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’s interested in how society labels some groups as worthy of empathy, while others are deemed undeserving. Among other projects, she is currently studying the impact of empathy and perspective-taking in a legal setting. She loves cooking, talking during movies, working out, and undoing her workouts with her uncontrollable sweet tooth.

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  • Matt Leipzig

    Matt graduated with a B.S. in psychology from Ohio State University. Matt is interested in prosocial behavior and empathy using behavioral experiments and neuroimaging methods. In his free time, Matt can usually be found eating Greek food or trying out new recipes.

    Zhengxuan(Zen) Wu

    Zhengxuan received his B.S. in mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering from Case Western Reserve University and M.S. in computer science from University of Pennsylvania. Currently, he is a MS&E student at Stanford focusing on computational social science while working at VMware. He is interested in applying computational methods to analyze social and cognitive data and building "artifical psychology" for robots.

    Emma Master

    Emma is a senior studying Symbolic Systems with a Cognitive Science concentration. She’s interested in reinforcing cycles of belief, narrative psychology, moral cognition, and the criminal justice system. She loves dogs, reading, meditating, crafts, and donuts.

    Christina Huber

    Christina is a senior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Human Biology. She is interested in using behavioral experiments and neuroimaging to explore how people's motives drive them to approach or avoid empathy, especially in an intergroup context. She is also interested in designing empathy-building interventions. Outside of the lab, Christina loves jogging, writing, listening to podcasts, and daydreaming about cats she'd like to adopt.

    Samantha Kargilis

    Sam is a senior majoring in Human Biology and minoring in English. She is interested in using behavioral, computational modeling, and neuroimaging methods to study interpersonal emotion regulation, looking at how we manage our own emotions and others’ emotions through social contact. She is also interested in prosocial behavior and empathy-building interventions in clinical contexts. Outside of the lab, Sam loves podcasts, comedy, and acapella music.

    Michael Smith

    Michael Smith is a Junior from Washington State studying Symbolic Systems with a concentration in Artificial Intelligence. He is interested in interdisciplinary applications of machine learning, as well as computational approaches to psychology. In his free time, Michael likes contributing to the robotics club, reading, lifting weights, and hanging out with friends.

    Yvette Lugo

    Yvette is a senior in a social psychology lab at California State University, Northridge. She is here doing summer research through SPUR and is interested in learning about social neuroscience. She loves arts and crafts, spending time with her family, and cooking.

    Recent Alumni

    Marissa Clark

    Marissa was the lab manager from 2016 to 2018 and is currently pursuing her PhD in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth. She received her B.S. in Cognitive Science with a minor in Neuroscience from UCLA. Marissa 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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  • Erika Weisz

    Erika completed her Ph.D with the lab in 2018, where she studied motivational forces that drive people toward or away from empathy. In her dissertation work, she developed and administered empathy interventions to improve people’s social and emotional wellbeing. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University studying empathy, prosocial behavior, and social decision-making.

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  • Craig Williams

    Craig completed his PhD with the lab in 2017. He previously received post-baccalaureate training at the National Institute of Mental Health and his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Craig’s research examines interpersonal emotion regulation — how we manage our own emotions and others’ emotions through social contact. To this end, he also studies the motivation to seek out other people and communicate our emotions. Broadly, Craig’s work explores how social situations (1) inform individuals’ emotional goals and (2) provide opportunities to advance those goals through social interaction. His approach combines behavioral, psychometric, psychophysiological, and neuroimaging methods. Craig is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, working with Wil Cunningham and Jim Coan (University of Virginia).

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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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  • Desmond Ong

    Desmond did his Ph.D. in the lab from 2012 to 2017, where he applied computational modeling to study affective cognition, or how people reason about emotions. This includes perceiving emotion from facial expressions and prosody, but also reasoning more generally about the causes of emotions, emotions conditioned on multiple emotional cues, and emotions in counterfactual states of the world. He is also interested in empathy, prosocial behavior, as well as all of these in clinical contexts. He is currently a Research Scientist in Singapore, where he eventually hopes to apply his models to build affectively aware computers and robots.

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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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