Social Learning Lab

Stanford University

Principal Investigator

Hyowon Gweon

website | CV | hyo [at] stanford.edu

I'm broadly interested in understanding the human ability to communicate – in particular, how we learn from others and teach others. My research brings together various approaches, aiming to provide a unified description of the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie the representations and inferential processes that allow us to learn and share about the world. As the PI of the Social Learning Lab, I'm thrilled to explore these questions with amazing people who all love to "learn from one another”!

Lab Manager

Grace Bennett-Pierre

gbp [at] stanford.edu


I am currently involved in projects investigating how children develop an understanding of difficulty and how they use this information to make decisions about their own and other’s goals. In addition, I am interested in questions related to future-thinking: how might considerations of cost (including our estimations of time) influence our ability to make plans into the future?

Graduate Students

Mika Asaba

CV | masaba [at] stanford.edu

Who am I, and how do I know who I am? I am fascinated by how we form, maintain, and update representations of the self through observations and social interactions, and I am particularly interested in the developmental roots of these processes. My work is broadly centered around how young children learn about the self through interactions with others and how they strategically communicate about the self to others.

Sophie Bridgers

sbridge [at] stanford.edu

Currently, I study how children learn with others in different social contexts, and the implications for basic cognitive processes and learning outcomes. How might the presence of another mind affect the hypotheses a learner considers? Do the socio-dynamics of the environment impact a learner’s representation of the cost of information sharing? How, when, and why do children choose to teach others?

Natalia Vélez

nvelez [at] stanford.edu

Humans are efficient and adaptable learners, but we don't have to learn everything from scratch – some tasks, such as learning to drive a car or finding foods that are safe to eat, would be difficult, even dangerous, to do without gathering information from other people. My research explores how children and adults exploit the rich structure of the social world to decide when to learn from others and whom to learn from. I also designed this website!

Lab Affiliates

Juan Miguel Arias

Stanford Graduate School of Education

website | jmarias [at] stanford.edu

I am a doctoral candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, working with Bruce McCandliss' Educational Neuroscience Lab and with Amado Padilla on community-action cultural-psychological research. I study how students develop pedagogical identities and skills, and how teaching behaviors are jointly influenced by social perspective-taking skills and socially-mediated expectations of the purposes and methods of teaching.

Judy Fan

Computation & Cognition Lab, Stanford

website | jefan [at] stanford.edu

I'm interested in how visual perception, action, and social inference are coordinated to support learning and communication. To get at this, I derive inspiration from how people convey information by drawing. I received my PhD in cognitive psychology from Princeton in 2016, and my AB in neurobiology from Harvard in 2010.

Robert X.D. Hawkins

Computation & Cognition Lab, Stanford

website | rxdh [at] stanford.edu

I’m interested in the cognitive mechanisms that allow people to flexibly coordinate with one another; in particular, I study the formation of conventions and norms using multi-player experiments and computational models of communication and social reasoning.

Yuan Chang Leong

Stanford Social Neuroscience Laboratory

website | ycleong [at] stanford.edu

I study expectancy and motivational effects on learning and decision-making.

Michael Henry Tessler

Computation & Cognition Lab, Stanford

website | mtessler [at] stanford.edu

I’m a 5th-year PhD student in the Computation and Cognition Lab (CoCoLab) working primarily with Noah Goodman. My work uses computational and behavioral methods to investigate the psycholinguistic properties and cultural implications of generalizations in language (e.g., generic language).

Xuan Zhao

Social Cognitive Science Research Center, Brown

website | xuan_zhao [at] brown.edu

My research examines perspective taking, empathy, moral reasoning, their behavioral outcomes such as prosocial behaviors and cooperation, and their applications in human-robot interaction.

Research Assistants

Sajjad Torabian

sajjad [at] stanford.edu

When I started my master's in computer science, the future of AI and determining its place among humans was the focus of my research. I tried to address the issue with a philosophical point of view, but I realized I needed to better understand human intelligence first. After spending the rest of the program working on MVPA analysis of fear and anxiety, I now study Theory of Mind at the SLL. Specifically, I'm interested in the neural correlates of ToM when thinking about beliefs of the self versus other.

David Altman

altmandm [at] stanford.edu

I am a senior at Stanford, majoring in psychology and completing pre-medical requirements. I'm currently working with Mika Asaba and Grace Bennett-Pierre to study how children understand and estimate the time and effort associated with tasks of varying difficulty. When I'm not in the lab, I can be found hiking, singing to myself, and being distracted by Wikipedia.

Brett Anderson

brettand [at] stanford.edu

I'm a transfer student from Los Angeles City College pursuing a major in psychology. During my previous career in music, I became fascinated with the creative process and the role that communication plays in collaboration and cultural transmission. After taking a class at Bing Nursery School, I found an interest in understanding the development of social cognition during childhood. Now, I am grateful to be involved with the Social Learning Lab, where I get to engage in a new kind of creative process and learn from amazing people.

Katelynn Ellam

katelynn.ellam [at] gmail.com

I graduated from Vanguard University with a bachelor's in Early Childhood Education. I am fascinated by how children's brains develop – it is amazing to see a child's interest and ability to learn about all things. I am considering pursuing further education in developmental psychology, so I can learn more about the biological and environmental factors that affect children's learning and developmental milestones.

Chelsey Pan

chelspan [at] stanford.edu

I am a senior studying psychology at Stanford University! My current research interests include studying how people learn about and utilize information about others' preferences and the psychological processes involved in forming social bonds. Unlike many of my peers in the lab, I study primarily adults (due to a more-than-mild fear of children). Other non-psychological research interests include determining the location of the best chai latte on campus and searching for my lost keys.

Valentina Ruiz-Jiménez

vruizjim [at] stanford.edu

I am a junior at Stanford majoring in Symbolic Systems with a concentration in neuroscience and a minor in bioethics. Working with children, I'm fascinated by their perpetual sense of wonder; as we grow up, we seem to lose that excitement about the world. I'm also interested in studying when children learn to be embarrassed and when/how the shift occurs from total freedom of expression (especially with things like joy) to understanding and following social rules.

2017 Summer Interns

Rob Henderson

robert.henderson [at] yale.edu

How do we think about moral obligation? There appear to be differences in the judgments of children and adults regarding pro-social behavior. I am broadly interested in moral reasoning, social cognition, and theory of mind. I am a rising fourth-year at Yale University, majoring in psychology. Throughout the school year, I serve as a research assistant at the Yale Mind and Development Lab. This summer, I am working in SLL to explore children’s sensitivity to the rarity of objects and their ability to infer the emotional states of others.

Maya Jones

majones [at] scmail.spelman.edu

Hi there! I am a rising junior pursuing a double major in mathematics and engineering at Spelman College. As a researcher, I am highly interested in understanding how young children develop the necessary cognitive skills to succeed academically and the role of demographic/socioeconomic factors play in their development. I love working with young children because of their hilariously, unfiltered personalities!

Yena Kim

missyenakim [at] gmail.com

How do people – especially children – make moral judgments of others? As an incoming first-year student at the University of Chicago, I hope to major in psychology and study how Theory of Mind connects to the moral development of children. This summer, I joined the SLL to expand the lab's science outreach materials as well as to explore social cognition.

Alicia Leong

awl6 [at] rice.edu

I’m a rising sophomore at Rice University majoring in cognitive sciences with a concentration in neuroscience. I’d like to know how toxic stress can impact children and their future. I hope to contribute to efforts seeking to buffer the neurodevelopmental disruption, as well as cognitive, emotional, and social impairments, resulting from early adversity.

Natalie Wu

nswu.10 [at] gmail.com

Babies are constantly watching people from the time they are born – what do they understand about what they’re seeing? I'm interested in how humans evaluate situations so early in their lifespan. Coming from the University of Texas, Austin, I’m excited to be working with Sophie Bridgers this summer on exploring how children learn from others’ actions and how information from other people affects beliefs and shapes behavior.

Past Lab Members and Affiliates

  • Huda Akef (Was: Research Assistant) – PhD student in Human Development and Family Studies Dept., UConn
  • Ron Anderson (Was: Research Assistant)
  • James Daly (Was: Honors Student '17) – Lab Manager, Bauer Lab at Emory University
  • Griffin Dietz (Was: Honors Student '17) – PhD student in Computer Science Dept., Stanford
  • Alyssa Lombardo (Was: Research Assistant)
  • Andrew McCabe (Was: Research Assistant)
  • Desmond Ong (Was: Graduate Student, Coco Lab/ SSNL) – Research Scientist, Institute for High Performance Computing, Singapore
  • Sumudu Rathnayake (Was: Research Assistant) – Behavioral Therapist in Los Angeles, CA
  • Emily Tang (Was: Research Assistant) – Associate Product Manager Intern, LinkedIn
  • Dan Yurovsky (Was: Postdoctoral Fellow, Language and Cognition Lab) – Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Chicago