Current Lab Members

Alex Shaw, Ph.D.

DIBS Lab Principal Investigator, Professor of Psychology

Broadly, Alex is interested in how human beings navigate the complex social world by tracking each others’ reputations and by signaling to others. More specifically, he studies the development of fairness in children. His fairness research is focused on differentiating fairness from other forms of niceness, exploring the reputational motives that may underlie fairness, and how fairness may relate to our alliance psychology. He also researches intellectual property in children and is investigating whether part of our concern with people stealing ideas is based in not liking others garnering a false reputational advantage. He is also interested in the computations people perform to decide how and when to fight over resources, track others’ reputations, and learn to properly discount others’ self-promotional strategies.



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Gemma Smith

Lab Manager

Gemma oversees the lab’s research projects, develops strategic partnerships, coordinates off-site collaborations and facilitates the work of our graduate and undergraduate researchers. Within the CECR, she unites the DSC Lab and the Developmental Investigations of Behavior and Strategy (DIBS) Lab led by Professor Alex Shaw. She has done psychology research at Trinity University and University of Washington, and worked in the mental health field for several years. Broadly, she is interested in studying children’s early perceptions of disability, the development of empathy, and the role of language development in identity formation.


Emory Kim

Jr. Lab Manager


Emory manages the logistical and administrative responsibilities of our virtual lab and leads our team of undergraduate Research Assistants. Emory is a fourth-year at the University of Chicago majoring in Psychology on the pre-medicine track with a minor in Education and Society. She is intrigued by the development of social categories and how both innate and learned categorizations affect individuals’ perceptions of others. Additionally, she is interested in the impact that self-interested behavior may have on individuals’ ability to process certain types of information. In the future, she plans to pursue a career in education policy research. email:

Molly C. Gibian

Senior Research Associate

Molly advises the lab’s research agenda, integrates systemic project management, writes regulatory documents and provides organizational guidance for the lab and the Center for Early Childhood Research. She has worked in neuroscience and psychology research for Wellesley College, M.I.T., Harvard Medical School, Boston University and Cornell University. Her research interests focus on societal/cultural influences on learning cognition, leadership ambition, identity formation and the development of value systems. In 2021, Molly is pursuing a graduate degree at Stanford University while continuing to support the lab.


Graduate Students

Hannah Hok

Ph.D. Student

Hannah is a third year PhD student working with Alex Shaw. Hannah broadly studies social and moral cognitive development and is interested in how children think about the fairness of using different procedures to navigate decision-making within groups. She has two primary research interests: Early thinking about the the values of political procedures such as majority rules voting and children’s understanding of hypocrisy and social signaling. 


Mitchell Landers

Ph.D. Student

Mitchell received his B.A. in philosophy from UC Berkeley. As a post-baccalaureate, he received training in evolutionary psychology from Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, and Steve Gaulin at UCSB. Mitchell is currently interested in friendship, cooperation, and alliance formation, the function of social emotions, and how to reconcile personality and other individual differences with our evolved, universal human nature.

Ben Morris

Ph.D. Student

Ben is a second-year PhD student with Alex Shaw and Daniel Yurovsky. Broadly, Ben works on the interplay between language and social cognition across development. He is especially interested in emerging conceptions of knowledge and knowledge transmission, and in the language cues that drive children's inferences about knowledge. 

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Katie Vasquez
Ph.D. Student

Katie is a first-year PhD student working with Alex Shaw. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2020 with a high honors in Psychology. After graduating, Katie worked as Yarrow Dunham’s and Paul Bloom’s laboratory manager at the Yale University Social Cognitive Development and Mind and Development Labs. Katie broadly researches children's social and moral development, including children's moral intuitions and how children behave in socio-moral dilemmas. In the DIBS Lab, Katie plans to focus on how children think about and engage in reputation management.

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Students
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Leah Overman

Leah is a fourth-year majoring in psychology and mathematics. She is broadly interested in how children and adults think about lying and reputation. She is currently working on her senior thesis, which will explore the effects of believability and harm on the permissibility of lies. In the future, she hopes to continue working in research and to find an overlap between her interests in psychology and mathematics.

Undergraduate Research Assistants
Cassidy Wilson

Research Assistant with Ben Morris

Cassidy is a second year majoring in Neuroscience and is interested in all aspects of cognitive science. She is particularly interested in neurodivergence and how the way people evaluate and treat others affects outcomes, as well as the social and cultural elements surrounding disability rights. She hopes to understand the mechanisms and social factors that underly emergent properties seen in neurodiverse individuals in order to create more inclusive spaces and a better understanding of what we currently understand to be different.

Courtney Batiste

Research Assistant with Hannah Kim

Courtney is a rising third-year double majoring in Economics with a Specialization in Business and Psychology. She is most interested in how children rationalize fairness and how early societal ideals are conceptualized by children. 

Ana Godinez

Research Assistant with Mitchell Landers

Ana is a third year undergraduate majoring in Comparative Human Development coupled with the pre-medicine track. She finds great interest in the development of reputation, alliances, identity, and personality in people of different origins, especially in children and young adults. Specifically, she is intrigued by how people alter their actions in social situations as a result of how others perceive them as well as how they perceive themselves. In the future, she hopes to apply her studies to a career in the field of mental health or education.

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Peter Yibo Pan

Research Assistant with Ben Morris

Peter was a former research assistant with the Communication and Learning Lab led by Dan Yurovsky and has transitioned to the DIBS lab to focus on projects involving child language acquisition, knowledge perceptions, and social language cognition. 

Lab Alumni

Eddie X. Mondeja

Eddie was an Honors Thesis student majoring in Psychology and Comparative Human Development, with a minor in Neuroscience. His primary interests were how morality and empathy influence decision-making both at the developmental and adult levels. He was also interested in the combination of psychology and neuroscience as it relates to the development of complex emotions. In the future, he hopes to attend a PhD program in psychology and pursue a career in academia.

Anam Barakzai, Ph.D.

In DIBS Lab: Was a Graduate Student (Ph.D., 2019)

Post DIBS Lab: Working in UX in the Bay Area

​In the lab, Anam's research examined how individuals think about themselves and others in relation to concepts of fairness, friendship, and power, with a specific focus on interactions of three or more persons. Drawing on developmental, social, and evolutionary insights and methods, Anam explored how kids and adults use information transfer and friendship behaviors as signals to inform and track meaningful social relationships within their friendship network. In another line of work, Anam examined how kids and adults intuit and conceptualize power across a variety of situations and actors.

Jessica Bregant, J.D., Ph.D.

In DIBS Lab: Was a Graduate Student (Ph.D., 2018)

Post DIBS Lab: Post-doc, Indiana University Bloomington, Law

​Jessica was a graduate student in the Joint Program in Psychology and Business at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, completing her Ph.D. in the spring of 2018. In the fall, she will begin a fellowship position at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University - Bloomington. In the DIBS lab, Jessica's research explored 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 projects examined whether children share common adult intuitions about punishment and justice, and how those intuitions develop and translate into attitudes and behaviors.



Zoe Liberman, Ph.D.

In DIBS Lab: Was a Graduate Student (Ph.D., 2016)

Post DIBS Lab: Assistant Professor, UCSB

Zoe completed her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in summer 2016. Zoe is now an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. With Dr. Shaw, Zoe explored children's early intuitions about social relationships. Namely, she conducted research examining whether humans view certain cues as predictive of friendship, and if perceptions of which cues are relevant for reasoning about friendship change across development.


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Zachariah Berry, M.A.

In DIBS Lab: Was a MAPSS Student

Post DIBS Lab: Ph.D. Student at Cornell University, Marketing

Zach was a masters student in the University's MAPSS program. His thesis investigated the underlying motives that drive a person to believe or disbelieve information. Zach started as a Ph.D. student at Cornell in fall 2017.


Sean Zheng, M.A.

In DIBS Lab: Was Research Assistant and MAPSS student

Post DIBS Lab: Ph.D. Student, Northwestern University, Psychology

​Sean Zheng recently graduated from UChicago's MAPSS program with a focus in psychology. In the fall, he will be starting as a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, working primarily with Dedre Gentner. In the DIBS Lab, Sean's research focused broadly on how children perceive and understand the social world. Sean received his B.A. in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology with Honors from Washington University in St. Louis in 2016. His undergraduate research studied how children parse dynamic information flow in everyday life, how gestures impact children's reasoning about relations, and their relationships with memory.


Sophie Arnold

In DIBS Lab: Was a Research Assistant

Post DIBS Lab: Lab Manager for Yarrow Dunham, Yale University

Sophie was a research assistant in the lab from 2016 to 2018. In July, she will join the Social Cognitive Development Lab at Yale University as the lab manager. She is interested in the effects of in-group out-group bias on broader concepts such as fairness and morality. She aspires to go to graduate school for psychology and become a professor at a university.

James Dunlea

In DIBS Lab: Was a Research Assistant

Post DIBS Lab: Ph.D. Student at Combia University, Psychology

Broadly, James' research leverages methods from developmental, social, and cognitive psychology to understand how reasoning during childhood lays the foundation for how adults think about topics related to fairness, justice, and morality. Thus far, most of James' work answers three main questions: (1) To what extent do different factors (e.g., age, contact with the justice system) influence punishment-related concepts?; (2) To what extent do children and adults perceive punishment as a signal of redemption?; (3) To what extent do children use kinship information to make epistemic predictions? Currently, James a Ph.D. student at Columbia University working primarily with Larisa Heiphetz.  

Emily Gerdin

In DIBS Lab: Was the Lab Manager

Post DIBS Lab: Ph.D. Student, Yale University, Psychology

Emily was the lab manager of DIBS lab from summer 2015 to summer 2017. She is now a Ph.D. student at Yale University, working primarily with Dr. Paul Bloom. During her time in the DIBS Lab, Emily focused on two primary lines of research, investigating 1) whether children use social relationships to infer who may share knowledge and 2) children's early political attitudes.


Kayla Good

In DIBS Lab: Was the Lab Manager

Post DIBS Lab: Ph.D. Student at Stanford University,

Kayla graduated from Reed College in 2017 with a major in Psychology and an allied field in Cognitive Science.  Currently, her research interests include children's developing understanding of reputation management as well as the processes influencing how individuals extract different kinds of messages from feedback. She is currently pursuing a Phd at Stanford with Carol Dweck and Ellen Markman. 


Ike Silver

In DIBS Lab: Was a Research Assistant

Post DIBS Lab: Ph.D. Student, University of Pennsylvania, Marketing

Ike worked as a research assistant in the DIBS lab from 2015 to 2016. He is now a doctoral student in Behavioral Marketing and Social Psychology at The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. Ike studies the fundamental mechanisms of human decision-making and social behavior with a particular focus on branding, social signaling, and reputation management. Recently, Ike's work has explored questions such as: What do young children understand about reputation management? Do adults have a moral mechanism for punishing braggarts and self-promoters? And why do we sometimes trust dishonest individuals? Ike's research aims to draw actionable conclusions for marketers, managers, and policy-makers. 


Zhenni Lin

Former Research Assistant

​Zhenni graduated from the College in spring 2017 with honors in psychology. Advised by Dr. Alex Shaw, her thesis explored cross-cultural similarities and differences in children’s perception of fairness. More generally, Zhenni is interested in understanding, through a developmental lens, how people, with their social and cultural particularities, have come to construct their social perceptions. Zhenni is also interested in the potential interdisciplinarity between the social and philosophical theories, such as Bentham’s utilitarianism, Nietzche’s will to power, and Lacan’s conception of desire and anxiety, from the humanities and psychology. 

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