Social Learning Lab

Stanford University

Principal Investigator

Hyowon Gweon

website | hyo [at] stanford.edu

I am broadly interested in understanding the human ability to communicate - in particular, how we learn from others and teach others. How do we construct rich, abstract theories about how the world works from our everyday experiences that often involve other people, and how do we communicate what we know to 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 about the world, and to communicate what we know. As a new PI of the Social Learning Lab, I am thrilled to explore these fascinating questions with the amazing people around me who all love to "learn from each other”!

Lab Manager

Grace Bennett-Pierre

gbp [at] stanford.edu

I am interested in understanding the social aspects of communication, including how we infer the mental states, beliefs, and abilities of others, and how we determine what should be communicated to whom. In addition, I am interested in questions related to future-thinking and the role that social imagination might play in our ability to make plans into the future. I’m excited to join the other members of the Social Learning Lab as the new lab manager!

Graduate Students

Sophie Bridgers

sbridge [at] stanford.edu

I am currently interested in studying 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? I look forward to exploring these questions as a member of the Social Learning Lab and am excited to be joining the broader Stanford community. (However, as a Berkeley native, I’m a bit conflicted about where my allegiances lie!)

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!

Xuan Zhao

xuanzhao [at] stanford.edu

I'm a PhD candidate working in Malle Lab on social cognition at Brown University and a visiting student at SLL during Winter/Spring 2015! I study perspective taking and Theory of Mind. I'm curious to know when people spontaneously take other people's perspective, and how perspective taking is affected by other people's nonverbal behaviors and one's own mindset. Here at SLL, I will be studying the development of perspective taking (and possibly other social cognitive aspects) in young children! My research is motivated by the interactive, dynamic nature of social cognition, and I'm very keen on acting & improv because of the richness of social interaction in them. Besides research, I try to apply what I know about perspective taking, social cognition, empathy, and acting to develop courses on leadership training.

Mika Asaba

masaba [at] stanford.edu

Who am I, and how do I know who I am? I am interested in how humans form and update representations of themselves and other people. The complex problem of when, what, and how information becomes incorporated into self- and person-knowledge is incredibly fascinating to me, and I am curious how these abstract representations motivate self-presentational behaviors.

Lab Affiliates

Desmond Ong

website | dco [at] stanford.edu

How do we reason about others' emotions? And how can we model such effortless inferences? I’m a graduate student in Psychology working primarily with Noah Goodman and Jamil Zaki, and I study how we reason about others’ emotions (affective cognition) via computational modeling and behavioral experiments. Together with members of the Social Learning Lab, I’ve also begun looking at how children might learn to reason using others’ emotions emotions to think about other minds (social cognition) or about what might have, but did not, happen (counterfactual thought).

Yuan Chang Leong

ycleong [at] stanford.edu

Learning from advice is an adaptive ability that allows us to learn quickly while avoiding costly mistakes. However, not all advice we receive is helpful, and we have to discern between good and bad advice when making decisions. How do we learn from whom to learn? How do we weight what we know against what others tell us? To answer these questions, I combine behavioral experiments, computational models and neuroimaging methods to probe the cognitive and neural basis underlying social learning. More broadly, I apply these same methods to study the effects of social influence on beliefs, preferences and perception.

Dan Yurovsky

website | yurovsky [at] stanford.edu

Human language acquisition is one of the classic puzzles of cognitive science. Language learning should be difficult: Natural languages are highly complex and fundamentally ambiguous. Yet young children are remarkable language learners, producing more than 1000 words by the time they are able to run. How do children learn language so rapidly despite constraints on memory, attention, and information processing? My work aims to answer this question by reframing language acquisition as a coordination problem. In particular, I explore how rapid language learning can emerge from the tight calibration between children’s developing learning mechanisms and parental language input.

Research Assistants

Sumudu Rathnayake


I am a recent graduate from the University of California Santa Cruz, with a Bachelors in Intensive Psychology. I'm interested in the various social interactions and cognitive development of early childhood. There are so many question to be answered in these stages of life such as how children learn to understand the actions of others. I'm absolutely thrilled and grateful to be working with the Social Learning lab and expanding my knowledge further in the field of psychology!

Chelsey Pan


I am a sophomore studying psychology and Pre-Medicine. I am interested in absolutely everything, but I'm currently working with Natalia Vélez on research studying theory of mind as it pertains to how people learn about the preferences of others. When I'm not writing cheesy movie plots for experiment stimuli, I can be found working at The Bridge Peer Counseling Center and trying to knit wool sweaters despite aggressive push back from the California climate.

Andrew McCabe


I am a Junior studying Symbolic Systems. Psychology is in interest of mine that has broadly manifested itself as a fascination for the differences in the ways individuals think, learn, behave, and develop and the factors that may give rise to these differences. This summer I look forward to learning the ropes of conducting and designing behavioral research as well as analyzing data, conducting literature reviews, and even designing toys!

Emily Tang


I'm a rising senior pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Psychology. I'm broadly interested in how children learn about the world around them: how they develop concepts of competence and its limits, objects and their values, race and ethnicity, math and science, and so on. Learning is inherently social, and I want to learn more about learning!

Previous Research Assistants

Ron Anderson


I am a senior interested in how young children use social and environmental cues to make inferences about their own and others’ positions within hierarchies and in how children manage their reputations. Children are such keen learners, and I am excited to continue to learn more about how they piece together their social worlds!

Alyssa Lombardo


Hi! I am currently a Senior Psychology major and member of the Stanford Softball team. I have a long-standing passion for children and getting involved with Stanford Bing Nursery School has been one of the highlights of my Stanford undergraduate career. I am highly interested in research that studies how early stages of life (i.e. in infants and children) can provide insight into their future development and what early childhood behaviors can teach us about life as an adult. I have been amazed with how much Bing and research with the SLL has helped me grow as a student, an athlete, and an all-around person.