Human Nature and Potentials Lab


Welcome to the Human Nature and Potentials Lab!

Human beings are not perfect by nature, but we all have the potentials to grow. What are our natural psychological tendencies, and what factors (e.g., cognitive, motivational and experiential) help us grow and transcend ourselves? We pursue this broad question in terms of three central aspects of humanity: emotional potential (happiness and meaning), moral potential (morality and ethics), and sense of self (self-realization and self-transcendence). Integrating perspectives from developmental, social, philosophical, evolutionary and cross-cultural psychology, we study children’s and adults’ tendencies to value, pursue, and improve each aspect, especially how these fundamental aspects influence each other and together contribute to a good life.

News and Publications:

Mengdi’s paper has won the Best Paper Award from the International Society for the Science of Existential Psychology (! Congratulations, Mengdi! 🎉

Arta’s paper is published on Child Development! Congratulations, Arta! 🙂
O’bi, A., & Yang, F. (2024). Seeing awe: How children perceive awe‐inspiring visual experiences. Child Development. Advance online publication.

New publication with Steven Roberts!
Yang, F. & Roberts, R. (2023). Condemned or valued: Young children evaluate nonconformity based on nonconformists’ group orientations. Cognition. Advance online publication.

Our Work on UChicago News!

Yilin Liu is going to the PhD program at UT Dallas (Dr. Candice Mills’ Lab). Congratulations, Yilin! 🎉

New Publications!
Yu, Chen, Dardaine, & Yang (2023). Moral barrier to compassion: How perceived badness of sufferers dampens observers’ compassionate responses. Cognition. Advance online publication

Yang, F., Yang, X., & Dunham, Y. (in press). Beyond Our Tribe: Developing a Normative Sense of Group-Transcendent Fairness. Developmental Psychology.

Ge, B.H. & Yang, F. (in press). Transcending the Self to Transcend Suffering. Frontiers in Psychology (Special Issue on Suffering and Wellbeing).

The Greater Good Magazine reported our paper!

New publication!
Chen, X., Harris, P. L., & Yang, F. (2023). Beyond Enjoyment: Young Children Consider the Normative Goodness of Activity Engagement When Attributing Happiness. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. Advanced online publication.

New Paper at Cognition and Emotion! Congratulations, Yena! 🎉
Kim, Y., Nusbaum, H., & Yang, F. (2022). Going Beyond Ourselves: The Role of Self-Transcendent Experiences in Wisdom.

New Publication at JEP: G! Congratulations, Mengdi!🎉
Huang, M. & Yang, F. (2022). Self-transcendence or self-enhancement: People’s perceptions of meaning and happiness in relation to the self. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advanced online publication.

New Paper at the Journal of Positive Psychology! Congratulations, Yanwen!🎉2
Yu, Y., Chen, X., Li, D., Liu, J., & Yang, F. (2022). Growing up happy: Longitudinal relations between children’s happiness and their social and academic functioning. The Journal of Positive Psychology. Advanced online publication.

Kevin passed the dissertation defense with an interesting, coherent, and comprehensive dissertation! Congratulations, Dr. Kevin Wei!🎉

Newly accepted BBS commentary:
Yang, F. (in press). Cooperative care as origins of the “happy ape”? Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Newly published article:
Wang, X., Chen, Z., Van Tongeren, D. R., DeWall, C. N., & Yang, F. (2022). Permitting immoral behaviour: A generalized compensation belief hypothesis. British Journal of Psychology. Advanced online publication.

Ishita is going to the PhD program at UC Irvine (Dr. Piff’s lab). Congratulations, Ishita!🎉

Jinrui is going to the PhD program at Nanyang Technological University (Dr. Setoh’s lab). Congratulations, Jinrui! 🎉

2021 & 2022

New Publication!
Yang, X., Yang, F., Guo, C., & Dunham, Y. (2022). Which group matters more: The relative strength of minimal vs. gender and race group memberships in children’s intergroup thinking. Acta Psychologica, 229, 103685.

Publication at JEP: G!
Yang, F., Knobe, J., & Dunham, Y. (2021). Happiness is from the soul: The nature and origins of our happiness concept. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(2), 276.

Six lab members have been accepted into doctoral programs. Congratulations!!
Jacky Beck (Developmental Psychology, UC Irvine)
Mengdi Huang (Social Psychology,  Northwestern University)
Yena Kim (Behavioural Science, University of Chicago – Booth School of Business)
Margaret Wolfson (Clinical Psychology, Xaviers University)
Sarah Jensen (University of Utah – Eccles School of Business)
Jessica Lee (Developmental Psychology, University of British Columbia)

2019 & 2020

Artemisia Deluna, Margaret Wolfson, and Yanwen Yu have been accepted to present at SRCD 2021.

Jacqueline Beck, Jenny Chang, Kevin Wei, Margaret Wolfson, Mengdi Huang, and Sarah Jensen will present their projects at SPSP 2021.

Margaret Wolfson, thesis student, was awarded the Earl R. Franklin Research Fellowship for Summer 2020. (May 2020)

Matthew Tineo has won a scholarship from UChicago’s Leadership Alliance Program and will join our virtual lab this summer. Congratulations and Welcome, Matthew! (April 2020)

Kaylar Furlano, who worked with us as a summer intern, has been accepted by the Social Psychology PhD program at University of Nevada. Congratulations Kaylar! (April 2020)