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Lab Director

Jon Freeman Jon Freeman, Ph.D. 

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Jon Freeman is Assistant Professor of Psychology at New York University and director of the Social Cognitive & Neural Sciences Lab. He received his Ph.D. from Tufts University and was on the faculty at Dartmouth College before coming to NYU in 2014. He studies split-second social perception—how we use facial cues to instantly categorize other people into social groups (e.g., gender and race) and perceive their personality traits and emotion. He treats social perception as a fundamentally dynamic process, and is interested in how basic visual perceptions can be shaped by prior social knowledge, stereotypes, and other aspects of social cognition. He uses a wide range of brain and behavior-based techniques to study the interplay of visual and social processes in rapid person judgment, including the roles of specific facial cues, social context, and individual differences. He additionally examines how the brain represents social categories and core trait dimensions, and how initial perceptions influence downstream behavior and real-world outcomes. He is also the developer of the data collection and analysis software, MouseTracker. His research is currently supported by the National Science Foundation.


Lab Manager

Xuan Zhang Xuan Zhang


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 is interested in programming and data analysis, and plans to go to graduate school, possibly in biostatistics, after working with Jon Freeman. In her free time, she loves hiking and backpacking.


Post-doctoral Researchers

DJ Lick DJ Lick, Ph.D.

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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.



Peter Mende-Siedlecki Peter Mende-Siedlecki, Ph.D.

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Peter Mende-Siedlecki is a post-doctoral researcher at NYU working with Jay Van Bavel and collaborating with Jon Freeman. Peter received his BA in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University in 2007, before receiving a PhD in Psychology from Princeton University in 2014, working primarily with Dr. Alex Todorov. Peter is broadly interested in interactions between social perception, social cognition, and social identity. In particular, his work takes a multi-level approach to the behavioral and neural bases supporting the dynamic representation of other people, as well as top-down influences on the social evaluation of faces.



Naoaki Naoaki Kawakami, Ph.D. 


Naoaki Kawakami is a visiting post-doctoral scholar working with Jon Freeman at New York University on a fellowship funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. He received his Ph.D. in 2011 from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, working with Dr. Fujio Yoshida. He is broadly interested in split-second social perception occurring outside of conscious awareness. In particular, his research tries to understand how high-level information can be processed before that information is consciously perceived and how it affects our real-world social behavior, decision-making, and person judgment. For example, he recently showed that basic narrative attributes inferred from graphic stories presented subliminally could be extracted without conscious awareness. While in the Social Cognitive & Neural Sciences Lab, he hopes to extend his research from multiple perspectives and to learn various methods.



Ph.D. Students

Ryan Stolier Ryan Stolier


Ryan completed his MA in Social Psychology working with Melody Sadler at San Diego State University. He then began his PhD at Dartmouth College working with Jon Freeman, who he is continuing his doctoral training with at New York University. Ryan is broadly interested in the architecture and dynamics of systems underlying person perception, and how they are instantiated neurally. To investigate this, his research primarily examines top-down influences on face perception, such as how motivations and prior knowledge impact social category representation. His work applies both implicit behavioral and neural decoding 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.


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.


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.



Billy Brady Billy Brady


Billy received his BA in psychology and philosophy from UNC-Chapel Hill, and his MA in philosophy from Georgia State University. He began his PhD in Social Psychology at NYU in 2012, working primarily with Emily Balcetis. He is broadly interested in unpacking how emotions regulate social situations and coordinate behavior between people. His research in the Freeman lab uses mouse-tracking paradigms to study how biases in emotion perception may influence romantic relationship outcomes.


Masters Student Research Assistants

Zahra Kadkhodaie


Zahra received her B.Sc. in Physics before switching to psychology. She began her Masters in psychology at NYU in 2013. She is working in the lab as a research assistant and is interested in the underlying mechanisms of human judgment and how social context, motivation, and group membership influence perception and judgment. She is also interested in the neural and cognitive mechanisms involved in moral judgment and related psychological phenomena such as empathy, fairness, and prejudice.


Daniel Mocombe


Daniel received his BA in psychology from the University at Buffalo, and began his Masters in psychology at NYU in 2014. He is working in the lab as a research assistant and is interested in the underlying mechanisms involved in facial perception and how they play a role in categorizing individuals into different social groups. He is also interested in implicit biases and stereotyping behaviors and their influence on intergroup relations. In his free time Daniel enjoys playing the guitar, cooking, and traveling.


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

Amir Hemmat


Amir Hemmat graduated from Yeshiva University, cum laude, with a degree in Marketing. Amir is excited to learn as much as possible from the Freeman Lab as he plans to pursue a higher degree in psychology. Amir is working in the lab as an assistant and is currently interested in, as Professor Freeman put it, "the personal and research" side of the lab's work - especially through the lab's mouse-tracking trials in understanding face perception.

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.


Shreyas Ganesh


Shreyas Ganesh, also known by his nickname Zakkir, is an undergraduate at NYU majoring in psychology and neural science. His broad interests are in social cognitive and affective neuroscience, which he would like to research at the graduate level eventually. In particular, he would like to take a multidisciplinary and multi-level approach to researching how the development of societies, institutions and schools of thought can be traced to neural processes. In his free time, Zakkir is an avid lover of film and music.



High School Students

Rick Melucci


Rick is a senior at Stuyvesant High School. He is interested in neural science and computer science and is currently studying the effects of abstract features such as trustworthiness on facial recognition. In his free time, he enjoys coding, playing the saxophone, and producing music.



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.



Cartoon illustration at top-right by Danielle Laurenti.