Current Lab Members

Alex Shaw, Ph.D.

DIBS Lab Principal Investigator, Assistant 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.



Faculty Page:

Molly C. Gibian

Senior Research Associate/Research Manager

Molly manages the lab’s research projects, develops strategic partnerships, coordinates off-site collaborations and facilitates the work of our graduate and undergraduate researchers. Within the Center for Early Childhood Research, she unites the DIBS Lab and the Development of Social Cognition Lab (DSC) led by Professor Katherine D. Kinzler. 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 environmental/cultural influences on learning cognition, leadership ambition, identity formation and the development of value systems.


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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Undergraduate Honors Thesis Students
Eddie X. Mondeja

Eddie is a fourth-year student majoring in Psychology and Comparative Human Development, and pursuing a minor in Neuroscience. His primary interests are how morality and empathy influence decision-making both at the developmental and adult levels. He is 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.

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.

Leah Overman

Research Assistant with Hannah Kim

Leah is a third-year majoring in psychology and mathematics. She is broadly interested in how people make decisions and specifically how people make decisions when reputation and/or in-group–out-group bias are involved. In the future, she hopes to continue working in research and to find an overlap between her interests in psychology and mathematics.

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.

Lucy Tindel

Research Assistant with Hannah Kim

Lucy is a rising second-year majoring in psychology. She is interested in the social emotions and perceptions that underlie communication and how they come to be in development. She primarily focuses on projects concerning early beliefs about voting, leadership, and rule-making. 

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. 

Co-RAs with the DSC Lab

These undergraduate research assistants contribute to the lab through their involvement

with the Social Kids Lab Online, our new virtual testing collaboration. 

Emory Kim

Emory is a third-year 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. 

Bolu Omotoba

Bolu is a rising second year majoring in psychology. She is interested in developmental psychology, as well as race and ethnic studies.

Sam Adams

Sam is a 2nd year master's student at the Harris School of Public Policy at UChicago. He is interested in the developmental processes that guide how children make sense of their own identities and those of others. 

Sasha Diaz

Sasha is a rising third-year majoring in Comparative Human Development with minors in Neuroscience and Creative Writing. She is interested in the socialization process across cultures and how these processes lead to the development of morality.

Elaina Katz

Elaina is a third year majoring in Anthropology. She is interested in the formation of prejudice and biases, and the possibilities of transcending such attitudes. 

Cecile Ngo

Cecile is a rising third year majoring in Comparative Human Development and minoring in Visual Arts. Her interests lie in language, empathy, and reasoning and how these intersect in cross cultural and multi-cultural research.

Lab Alumni

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.


Lab Website:

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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Center For Early Childhood Research 
5848 S. University Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 834-5631

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