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Lab Director

Jon Freeman Jon Freeman, Ph.D. 

[Web] [Email] [CV] [Twitter]

Jon Freeman is Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University. He studies split-second social perception—how we use facial cues to instantly categorize other people into social groups and perceive their personality traits and emotion. He treats social perception as a fundamentally dynamic process, and is interested in how basic visual construal can be shaped by prior person knowledge, stereotypes and biases, and other aspects of social cognition. He studies the interplay of visual and social processes in perceptual judgments and interpersonal decisions, including the roles of specific facial features, social context, and individual differences. He additionally examines how the brain represents social categories and core trait dimensions of other people, and how initial perceptions influence downstream behavior and real-world outcomes. He takes an integrative and multi-level approach in examining these phenomena, incorporating insights across social psychology and the cognitive, vision, and neural sciences. His studies use a wide range of methodologies, including neuroimaging, electrophysiology, real-time behavioral techniques (e.g., mouse-tracking), and computational modeling. He is also the developer of the data collection and analysis software, MouseTracker, and is the recipient of a number of awards, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, the SAGE Young Scholars Award from the Foundation for Personality & Social Psychology, the Early Career Award from the International Social Cognition Network, and was named a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science.


Lab Manager

Michael Berkebile Michael Berkebile


Michael Berkebile received his BA in psychology from the University of California, San Diego in 2013. Afterwards, while working with Dr. Ralph-Axel Mueller on measures of functional connectivity in Autism spectrum disorder, he earned his MA in psychology, with a focus on cognitive neuroscience at San Diego State University in 2016. He is now at NYU, acting as joint lab manager for Dr. Jon Freeman and Dr. David Amodio. Michael is interested in studying how the neural networks that support reward and punishment processes function in social contexts. He further wants to research how these networks develop, and manifest differentially based on factors like group membership, level of social anxiety, social power, and economic scarcity.


Post-doctoral Researchers

DJ Lick DJ Lick, Ph.D.

[Web] [Email] [CV]

DJ Lick is a post-doctoral researcher working with Jon Freeman at NYU. He received his Ph.D. from UCLA, where he worked primarily with Kerri Johnson. After mere seconds of exposure to another person, perceivers express biases related to that person's sex, gender, sexual orientation, and race. DJ is interested in the social cognitive mechanisms underlying these biases. Specifically, he examines how low-level features of the target (e.g., facial appearance, body shape, body motion) and higher-level features of the perceiver (e.g., identity threat, perceptual experience) interactively shape prejudicial biases in the early moments of person perception. He brings interdisciplinary methods from the social, cognitive, and vision sciences to bear on these questions in order to provide new information about the deep roots of interpersonal prejudice.





Ph.D. Students

Ryan Stolier Ryan Stolier

[Web] [Email] [CV] [Twitter]

Ryan is a NYU doctoral student broadly interested in how we represent social perceptions and concepts. His research concerns how bottom-up perceptual (e.g., face perception) and top-down social factors (e.g., prejudice, motivation) influence and structure these representations. He is interested in understanding these processes at both psychological and neural levels of analysis. His research primarily applies implicit behavioral and fMRI pattern analysis methods to these questions.


Jeff Brooks Jeff Brooks


Jeff Brooks received his BA in Philosophy, with a minor in Cognitive & Brain Sciences, from Tufts University in 2012. Afterward, he spent a year as a research assistant at Duke University's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and two years as a lab manager in Kristen Lindquist's lab at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is now a PhD student at New York University, working with Jon Freeman. Jeff is interested in the neural mechanisms that support the influence of conceptual knowledge and top-down social processes on lower-level perceptual experiences, particularly in the context of social categorization and emotion. He is also broadly interested in exploring the role of domain-general intrinsic brain networks in social perception and evaluative processes.


Ben Stillerman Ben Stillerman


Ben received his BS in Cognitive Science from University of California, San Diego and he began his PhD in Social Psychology at NYU in 2015, working with Jon Freeman and Dave Amodio. He wants to know how people categorize others and how someone's membership in various social groups can influence perception of them. He is especially interested in how implicit stereotypes and prejudice alter lower-level visual perception and in finding interventions to mitigate the effects of intergroup bias.


Ashley Unger Ashley Unger


Ashley is a PhD candidate in the Social Psychology program at NYU working primarily with Jon Freeman. Prior to joining the program, she completed a B.S. in Psychology with a Neuroscience option at The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). Upon completion of her degree, she spent 2 years working as a Lab Manager in the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Temple University. Her work centers on the visual perceptual system. She is particularly interested in our ability to rapidly recognize, categorize and respond to others through use of facial physiognomy. While her previous work has focused on the neural circuitry and mechanisms underlying these processes in adults, she plans to extend her line of research into developmental populations.


Visiting Scholars

Merylin Monaro Merylin Monaro


Merylin is PhD candidate in Brain, Mind and Computer Science at University of Padova (Italy). She works under the supervision of Prof. Giuseppe Sartori in the field of forensic neuroscience. She is particularly interested in the study of deception and in its social implications, with particular attention to security applications. Most of her studies focus on understanding the cognitive mechanisms that underline the lies, with the final aim to develop new lie detection tools that are based on our cognitive system functioning. She integrates the cognitive science knowledge with notions of AI, to develop intelligent lie detection machines.


Ph.D. Student Affiliates

Annie Hill


Annie received her B.A. in Psychology from Vassar College in 2012. She began her Ph.D. in Social Psychology at NYU in 2014, working primarily with Dr. David Amodio. Her research broadly concerns how psychological processes entrench intergroup conflict. She is especially interested in identifying prejudice regulation strategies for intergroup contexts in which discrimination is socially acceptable.


Alexa Hubbard


Alexa is a PhD student in social psychology working primarily with Yaacov Trope. She is interested in mental simulation and self-regulation. She is collaborating with the Freeman lab in looking at how psychological distance can affect the process of choosing between immediate versus delayed rewards.


Diego Reinero Diego Reinero

[Email] [CV]

Diego received a dual B.S. in Psychology and Business from Skidmore College in 2012. He worked as a research assistant in various labs; Paul Bloom's lab at Yale University, Daniel Gilbert's lab at Harvard University, and the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. He began his Ph.D. in Social Psychology at NYU in 2015, working primarily with Jay Van Bavel. He is broadly interested in empathy, morality, and intergroup cooperation. His current research explores how group identification shapes neural synchrony and cooperation among individuals, and the dynamic processing of moral decisions.


Qi Xu


Qi was born and raised in mainland China. Qi received her B.S. in Applied psychology from Shanghai Normal University in 2012. She began her PhD in Social Psychology at NYU in 2014, working primarily with Patrick Shrout. She is broadly interested in how people represent their romantic relationship and how relationship representations influence thoughts, feelings and behavior. Her work in the Freeman lab uses mouse-tracking paradigms to study how people allocate financial resources within different relationship contexts. Additionally, she is interested in exploring how relationship representations are reflected at the neural level.



Jenn Lee


Jenn is pursuing a PhD in neuroscience at NYU after completing her BSc at McGill University. In collaboration with Dr Weiji Ma, in the lab she will be modelling implicit race/ gender biases using a memory task involving facial recognition of emotions.



Masters Student Research Assistants

Ryan Tracy


Ryan is a first year MA student, having graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a BA in psychology in 2013. Primarily working in Jim Uleman’s lab, he's interested in how people make automatic judgments about the morality of other individuals and how group membership modulates this effect.


Carlina Conrad


Carlina received her B.Sc. in Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. She started her Masters in psychology at NYU in 2015 where she is working in the lab as a research assistant. She is interested in the field of behavioral neuroscience, specifically in the underlying neural mechanisms of the dynamic relationship between social perception and group membership. In regards to social perception, she is especially interested in the bias and perception of emotion and trustworthiness.


Undergraduate & Post-Bac Research Assistants

John Andrew Chwe


John Andrew Chwe is a sophomore double majoring in psychology and computer science. His current interests revolve around understanding the effect of quantifiable social endorsement on evaluative ratings. In the future, John Andrew will endeavor to utilize theoretical frameworks from psychology to enrich big data analysis.

Ying Xie


Ying Xie is a psychology major currently in her sophomore year at Hunter College. She is interested in studying the neural circuits and biology involved in visual perception. In her free time, she enjoys photography and watching online lectures. She is also an avid mystery fan.


Deshana Barua


Deshana is a junior at NYU majoring in psychology and minoring in chemistry and anthropology. Her academic background has inspired her to take a multi-disciplinary approach to social cognition. She is interested in cognitive evolution and evolutionary psychology, especially as they relate to face perception and social categorization. In her free time, she likes to read obsessively and scout for picturesque nap locations around the city.



Lab Alumni
Eric Hehman Eric Hehman, Ph.D.

Eric is now an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ryerson University. Website: http://www.erichehman.com


  Zach Ingbretsen Zach Ingbretsen
Lab Manager

Zach graduated from Dartmouth College in 2011 with an A.B. in neuroscience with honors. After graduating, he was lab manager for Catherine Norris' social neuroscience lab, and then lab manager / research technician / software development assistant extraordinaire in Jon Freeman's lab. He is currently a research technician / software engineer in Mina Cikara's lab at Harvard.

Xi Shen
Masters Student


Xi was a Masters student at NYU, majoring in psychology. She worked in the lab as a research assistant and is interested in face perception and its role in social cognitive processes. She is currently a PhD student at Cornell University.  

  Natalie Salmanowitz Natalie Salmanowitz
Undergraduate Honors Student

Natalie Salmanowitz was a neuroscience major and theater minor at Dartmouth from Menlo Park, California, who graduated in 2014. She completed her senior thesis project in the lab, exploring the neural basis of the facial width to height ratio and its impact on predictions of guilt. She is currently a Masters student at Duke.
Jemin Park Jemin Park
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Jemin Park was a neuroscience major at Dartmouth from Knoxville, Tennessee. He worked in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant and is interested in studying how the brain converts sensory information into definite perceptions of people.


  Jay Dumanian Jay Dumanian
Undergraduate Honors Student

Jay Dumanian was a psychology major at Dartmouth from Los Altos, California, who graduated in 2014. He completed an honors thesis in the lab, studying the effects of personality judgments on our mental representations of the faces of others.


Xuan Zhang Xuan Zhang
Lab Manager

Xuan Zhang received her A.B. in Mathematics, cum laude, nutrition and health minor, from Cornell University in 2014. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Laboratory of Rational Decision Making with Dr. Reyna. She served as lab manager from 2014-2016 in the Freeman Lab. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. at Columbia.


  Carlotta Cogoni Carlotta Cogoni
Visiting Ph.D. Student

Carlotta Cogoni is enrolled in a PhD program in Cognitive Neuroscience at SISSA, in Italy. Her research focuses on sexual objectification with a specific focus on the female gender. She was a visiting student in the Freeman Lab in Spring 2016, working on a collaboration involving multi-voxel pattern analyses (MVPA) for fMRI data, as well as computer mouse-tracking techniques.


Cartoon illustration at top-right by Danielle Laurenti.