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.


We have multiple online studies for children between ages 4 and 9 who speak English.  Click the link below to let us know your interest and we will follow up with you shortly!

Recent News:

Ishita Singhal will be joining Potentials Lab as the new lab manager. Welcome Ishita!

Janice Im and Yilin and Liu will be joining the Potentials Lab as MAPSS students. Welcome Janice and Yilin!

Six potentials lab alumni 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)


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)

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.