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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.



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

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.



Ryan Lisann Leah Weingast


Leah Weingast is a Brandeis undergraduate from Long Island, who plans to major in Neuroscience and Behavior or Cognitive Science. She is working at the lab as an undergraduate research assistant and is interested in the connections between motivation and visual processing. She has previously assisted with research in a health psychology lab, focusing on the impacts of stress on the immune system and in gene expression. In her free time she enjoys running, playing with her dog, and spending time with friends.



Ryan Lisann Zachary Mitnik


Zachary Mitnik received his BA from Hampshire College in 2014, where he studied the social neuroscience of religion and spirituality. His thesis explored possible neurological differences between mindfulness meditation performed solo and with a partner. He is currently interested in religion's role in social identity/categorization and moral cognition. Outside of research, he enjoys board games, theater, and fencing.



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.



Ryan Lisann Ryan Lisann


Ryan Lisann is an undergraduate at Dartmouth from Long Island, New York. He worked with Jon Freeman as an undergraduate research assistant at Dartmouth and will continue working with him at NYU during Summer 2014. He is very interested in learning about the relationship between visible perception and processing of these perceptions within the brain. He is on a pre-health track pursuing a major in Neuroscience. Outside of class, he is involved in MEDLIFE, a global health organization, and recently went to Ecuador to work in medical clinics. He also enjoys doing community service as part of both the Rotaract and ASPIRE clubs. In his free time he likes to play tennis, squash, rock climb and swim in the Connecticut.



Valerie Orellana Valerie Orellana


Valerie is an undergraduate at Dartmouth from Los Angeles, California. She worked in the lab with Jon Freeman as an undergraduate research assistant at Dartmouth and will continue working with him at NYU during Summer 2014. She was selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Sophomore Science Scholar for the 2012-13 year. She is interested in researching about the real-time perception of race and gender. She will be majoring in psychology and possibly minoring in either French or Film. Outside of class, she swims as part of Dartmouth’s Varsity Swimming and Diving team. She also loves watching Criminal Minds and foreign films.



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.