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: moral transcendence (morality), goals and achievement (competence), and the happiness and meaning of human existence (subjective experience). Integrating perspectives from developmental, social, philosophical, evolutionary and cross-cultural psychology, we study individuals’ capacities to evaluate, pursue and improve each aspect; we are also especially interested in how these fundamental aspects influence each other and together contribute to a good life.

Recent News (2020):

We are accepting new undergraduate research assistants for Fall 2020. If you are interested, please fill out the form in the “For Students” page. Feel free to email the lab manager, Jacky (, if you have any questions.

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)

Recent Publications

Yang, F., Knobe, J., & Dunham, Y. (2020). Happiness is from the soul: The nature and origins of our happiness concept. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.