The Development of Social Cognition Laboratory recently moved from the University of Chicago to Cornell University. We have active projects ongoing at both locations.

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Katherine D. Kinzler, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Departments of Psychology and Human Development

Professor Kinzler’s research investigates the development of social cognition, with particular emphasis on exploring infants’ and children’s attention to the language and accent with which others speak as a marker of group membership. She is also interested in the development of face perception, social categories, empathy, cultural learning, and trust.

Cornell University


Molly Gibian

Molly graduated from Wellesley College with a major in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and a minor in Psychology. She has worked in neuroscience and psychology research for Wellesley, M.I.T., Harvard Medical School and the Boston VA Hospital. She is interested in the development of social cognition with a focus on empathic and altruistic behavior.


Isobel Heck

Isobel is a first-year PhD student in Human Development. She is broadly interested in the development of early social cognition. Currently, she is focused on moral development, the formation of group-based attitudes, and individual and cultural differences in children’s developing social insights and behaviors and how those differences relate to other early developments.

Radhika Santhanam

Radhika Santhanam is a first-year PhD student in the Perception, Cognition, & Development (PCD) area of the Psychology Department. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Biopsychology, Cognition, & Neuroscience. She is interested in using eclectic experimental methods (from neuroimaging to behavioural assessments) to research language development, autism, bilingualism, & law.

Ashley Ransom

Ashley worked as the Development of Social Cognition’s lab manager from July 2014 to August 2015. She is now a Ph.D. student in Human Development. Her research examines children’s reasoning about language and accent, children’s essentialist beliefs about language, and the roles of language and food in early social group categorization.

Rajen Anderson

Raj is a Ph.D. student in the Social and Personality area of the Psychology Department. He is broadly interested in judgment and decision-making, particular in the context of moral psychology and questions of person perception: how do we judge the behavior, intentions, and character of others? In addition, Raj is interested in the intersection between moral psychology and other fields, like political psychology (e.g., why do we tend to moralize political matters?) and developmental psychology (e.g., do children follow the same rules in making moral judgments that adults do?).


Benjamin Ruisch

Ben is a Ph.D. student in the Social and Personality area of the Psychology Department. He is interested in the causes and consequences of heightened threat reactivity, particularly as they relate to the development of political ideology. Ben is also interested in how threat reactivity shapes attention and basic social cognition processes like stereotype formation and social categorization.


Lance Bush

Lance is a Ph.D. student in Social and Personality area of the Psychology Department. He is interested in understanding morality from an interdisciplinary perspective that incorporates social psychology, moral philosophy, and evolutionary theory. His current projects center on understanding how people think about the nature of morality, and especially whether people think moral norms are objective, relative, both, or something else. Lance is also interested in understanding altruism and prosocial behavior and in designing interventions that could motivate people to be more charitable and more concerned with improving the welfare of others.


Vivian Rotenstein

Vivian is a first year doctoral student in Human Development. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Psychology. Broadly speaking, her research interests lie at the intersection of psychology and law. Specific topics of interest include children’s attitudes about justice and the function of punishment, factors influencing jury decision making in criminal and civil trials, the reliability of children’s witness testimony, and perceptions of criminality.


Kacie Armstrong

Kacie is a graduate student in the Perception, Cognition, and Development area of the Psychology Department. Her research investigates face perception in both children and adults. Specifically, she is interested in how observer mood, as well as social cues to group membership, influence the perception of facial expressions. Kacie also studies Hollywood film, focusing on how the visual structure of cinema relates to emotional responses in viewers.



Sabrina Balkarran, Class of 2018


Molly Ludlow, Class of 2018


Paola Ocampo, Class of 2018

kristin-quillKristin Quill, Class of 2017


Cassidy Halford, Class of 2019


Gillian Grose, Class of 2020

Julianna Meely, Class of 2018

kayla-youngKayla Young, Class of 2017

Annabel Bacon, Class of 2020

University of Chicago


Emily Gerdin

Emily graduated from University of Chicago in 2014 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Religious Studies. Her honors thesis, conducted under the direction of Katherine Kinzler, explored children’s evaluations of others based on their displayed food preferences. From 2014 to 2015, she was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Israel, working with Dr. Gil Diesendruck on projects exploring how growing up in areas of ethno-religious conflict influences children’s social cognitive development.


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Jessica Bregant

Jessica’s research explores how people make decisions in legal contexts, incorporating insights and methods from developmental psychology, social psychology, economics, and law. She is also interested in moral and social development, and her current projects examine whether children share common adult intuitions about punishment and justice, and how those intuitions develop and translate into attitudes and behaviors.


Nicole Baltazar, Ph.D.

Nicole currently works as a Research Analyst at Slover Linett Strategies, where she studies audience engagement at arts and culture organizations. She also teaches an Adolescent Psychology class to Chicago Public School teachers. Her research investigates how social cues influence face perception and memory in early childhood.

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Jocelyn Dautel, Ph.D.

Jocelyn is now a Lecturer at Queen’s University, Belfast. Her Helping Kids- QUB! website has details about current research investigating children’s empathy and prosocial behaviors within a developmental intergroup framework. Jocelyn’s research investigates the development of social cognition, specifically, when and how children and adults categorize others into social groups, and how these categories guide further social preferences, inferences, and behavior. She is particularly interested in the influence of social context on these processes, including national and political context, diversity in one’s local environment, and perceptions of conflict.

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Jasmine M. DeJesus, Ph.D.

Jasmine is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan. She is primarily interested in understanding the way children think about food and in what ways they are sensitive to the cultural significance of food selection. Jasmine is integrating approaches from cognitive development and public health to investigate the sources, content, and consequences of children’s food concepts.

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Samantha Fan, Ph.D.

Samantha is the Earl S. Johnson Instructor in Psychology at the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS), UChicago. She advises MAPSS students on lab placements, course selections, faculty advisors, and MA thesis projects. Samatha’s primary research interest stems from a personal belief that culture plays a pivotal role in the development of self. She is also interested in the malleability of human prejudice.

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Sarah Gaither, Ph.D.

Sarah is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University. Sarah’s research interests include examining how having multiple racial or social identities affect different cognitive and behavioral outcomes, how multiracial or racially ambiguous populations are treated and categorized, and the developmental underpinnings of stereotypes and prejudice. She also investigates how different types of intergroup contact and social context may affect interracial interaction outcomes differently.

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Zoe Liberman, Ph.D.

Zoe is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara. Zoe’s current research falls under two broad categories. First, she is interested in how infants understand our complex social world: what makes an infant think that two people are likely to be in the same social category? Second, she studies how differences in social experiences, specifically regular exposure to multiple languages, influences how infants, children and adults perform on tasks that require effective communication.

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Kathleen (Casey) Sullivan, Ph.D

Casey Sullivan is currently a Presidential Management Fellow at the National Institutes of Health Office of Research on Women’s Health through the program’s inaugural STEM track. She recently completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago after earning her Ph.D. in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. Casey’s research in early cognitive and social development has focused on the concepts and processes that infants and children use to navigate the social world.