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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

Eric Hehman
Eric Hehman, Ph.D.

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Eric Hehman is a post-doctoral researcher working with Jon Freeman at New York University. He received his Ph.D. in 2012 from the University of Delaware while working with Sam Gaertner. His research examines how evolutionary forces shaped the psychological mechanisms responsible for perceiving others, and how these mechanisms can manifest in modern-day social issues. He prefers to examine his research questions from multiple perspectives, utilizing various socio-cognitive, behavioral, physiological, and statistical approaches. In his free time, Eric travels as often and as broadly as possible.



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.



DJ Lick DJ Lick, Ph.D.  (Starting September 2015)

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Starting September 2015, DJ Lick will be a post-doctoral researcher working with Jon Freeman at NYU. He soon expects to receive his Ph.D. from UCLA, where he's 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.



Naoaki Naoaki Kawakami, Ph.D.  (Starting September 2015)


Starting September 2015, Naoaki Kawakami will be 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.


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 SCNS lab uses mouse-tracking paradigms to study how biases in emotion perception may influence romantic relationship outcomes.


Masters Student Research Assistants

Ryan Lisann 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.


Ryan Lisann Xi Shen


Xi is a Masters student at NYU, majoring in psychology. She is working in the lab as a research assistant and is interested in face perception and its role in social cognitive processes. She's also interested in the broad area of how people perceive others implicitly, through texts and nonverbal cues. In her spare time, she likes cooking, watching movies in theaters and travelling.



Undergraduate Research Assistants

Lauren McKenzie


Lauren McKenzie is an undergraduate student at NYU studying Psychology with a minor in Classical Civilization. She is working in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant and is interested in the relationships between stereotyping and behavior, specifically in regards to incarcerated and previously incarcerated individuals. In her spare time Lauren works as a dog walker and volunteers with the children of P.S.1. people he loves.


Ryan Lisann Stephen Spivack


Stephen is a psychology and philosophy student from Chicago, Illinois. He is working in the lab as an undergraduate research assistant and is interested in studying the neural underpinnings of the social cognitive process of transference. Outside of NYU, he is interested in weightlifting and bodybuilding, playing the drum set, and spending time with the people he loves.



Anton Gollwitzer


Anton Gollwitzer is an undergraduate at New York University studying Psychology and Computer Science. His research has included work on behavior change strategies, simultaneous assimilation, cross-modal valence transfer, and competitive strategies, among other topics. The unique combination of his studies has led Mr. Gollwitzer to adopt an approach that combines innovative psychological research with forward thinking technology.


Ryan Lisann 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.



Lab Alumni
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.

  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.


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 is 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.



Cartoon illustration at top-right by Danielle Laurenti.