Social Learning Lab

Stanford University

Principal Investigator

Hyowon Gweon

website | CV | hyo [at]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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!

Xiaoqian Li

xqli [at]

Children are savvy in that they are selective learners. My research explores the strategies that preschool-aged children use to determine whether to learn from certain people but not the others and whether they apply different strategies when interacting with non-human agents such as robots. As a visiting graduate student at the Social Learning Lab, I’m working with Hyo and Mika to study how children infer and update robots’ beliefs about their competence.

Lab Affiliates

Juan Miguel Arias

Stanford Graduate School of Education

website | jmarias [at]

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]

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]

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]

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

Michael Henry Tessler

Computation & Cognition Lab, Stanford

website | mtessler [at]

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]

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]

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]

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]

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.

Isabelle Morris

isabell2 [at]

I am a junior at Stanford majoring in psychology with a concentration in Health and Development. After I graduate, I plan to pursue my PhD in psychology and go into research. I am particularly interested in language acquisition in atypical language-learning populations, specifically Deaf and Autistic communities, and am currently learning ASL (American Sign Language).

Chelsey Pan

chelspan [at]

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]

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.

Past Lab Members and Affiliates

  • Yena Kim (Was: Research Assistant)
  • Alicia Leong (Was: Research Assistant)
  • Natalie Wu (Was: Research Assistant)
  • Maya Jones (Was: Research Assistant)
  • Robert Henderson (Was: Research Assistant)
  • Katelynn Ellam (Was: Research Assistant)
  • 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