Human Nature and Potentials Lab

Fan Yang

Principle Investigator

Dr. Fan Yang is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. Fan is broadly interested in the psychological tendencies that enable us to grow and transcend ourselves. She completed her PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Fan was a post-doctoral associate at Yale University and received a master’s degree from Harvard University.

Jacqueline (Jacky) Beck

Lab Manager

Jacky received her B.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She worked with Dr. Andrei Cimpian as an honors student to study social categorization and negative stereotypes. Following graduation, she took some gap years in South Korea. She is excited to be back in academia to do research with Dr. Fan Yang on children’s biases and sociomoral reasoning. Jacky plans to attend graduate school to study social cognition and inequalities.

Graduate Students

Artemisia Deluna

Artemisia is a PhD student in developmental psychology working with Fan Yang. She studies self-transcendent emotions and experiences and is interested in the way these ineffable moments shape an individual’s sense of self. Her current work investigates children’s perceptions of awe. She holds a B.S. in Cognitive Science and a B.A. in Philosophy from Indiana University Bloomington, where she studied the materiality of abstract thought with David Landy and the mathematics of traditionally feminine fiber art with Kylie Peppler.

Chih-Ning (Jenny) Chang

Jenny has been a research assistant in the lab since she graduated from the MA Program in the Social Sciences in 2019. She is currently working on a project with Dr. Yang that examines how happiness values can be transmitted across cultural groups. Prior to joining the lab, she completed her MA thesis on acculturation with Dr. Richard Shweder. She is looking forward to studying how unequal intercultural relations interact with the self in graduate school. Besides research, Jenny enjoys yoga, gardening, cooking, and baking.

Jinrui Liu

Jinrui is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago’s MAPSS program. Jinrui has a broad interest in group polarization and different perceptions of apparent features (e.g., appearance, clothes, accent, language). She plans to pursue a Ph.D.

Mengdi Huang 

Mengdi graduated from MAPSS and is currently a research assistant in the lab, workin on projects related meaning and happiness in life. She is interested in how emotional and motivational factors contribute to people’s subjective life experiences. Prior to UChicago, she received a bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology from UCSD. Outside of the lab, she enjoys taking photos, dancing and baking.


Sarah Jensen

Sarah graduated from the Master of Arts in the Social Sciences Program (MAPSS) and now works as a lab manager in the Center for Decision Research at Booth. She is primarily interested in how moral judgments shape decision making and impact interpersonal relationships. With Dr. Yang, Sarah is working on a project examining how people using warm-glow to motivate prosocial behavior are judged relative to people using other types of motivations. Outside of the lab, Sarah enjoys playing flute and piano and is a novice rock climber.

Yanwen Yu

Yanwen graduated from the Masters Program in the Social Science (MAPSS) psychology concentration. She is broadly interested on the topic of subjective well-being and how it influences people’s behavior, particularly social behavior. Currently, Yanwen is working with Dr. Yang on a project examining the bi-directional relationship between moral behaviors and happiness for her master thesis. Outside of studies, she loves yoga, music, and cooking.

Thesis Students

Margaret Wolfson

Margaret is a fourth-year at the University of Chicago, majoring in Psychology with a minor in English and Creative Writing. She is broadly interested in developmental psychology with a specific interest in the morality of children. She is currently working on a project in the lab that explores the early moral tendencies of children to gain pleasure at the expense of another’s pain. Outside of her studies, Margaret is a member of the University of Chicago swim team.

Mollie Davies

Mollie is a fourth year undergraduate majoring in psychology with a minor in neuroscience. She is particularly interested in meaning in life, whether it be existential meaning or the meaning we ascribe to actions. Mollie is also involved on campus with Model United Nations and Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, and hopes to enter a graduate program for psychology after completing her degree.

Undergraduate Students

Alice Tay

Alice Tay is a second-year student at the University of Chicago, majoring in Psychology and English. She is interested in developmental psychology, specifically how children’s personalities and valuation of themselves differ across cultures. Outside of the lab, Alice enjoys dancing, playing piano and biking around Chicago.

Cameron Najafi

Cameron is a first-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago with an intended self-designed major on global catastrophic risks (e.g. climate change, nuclear war). He is deeply interested in the mechanisms of self-transcendence/the Bodhisattva vow and how it applies to navigate—psychologically, politically, socially, aesthetically—ecological and humanitarian crises. For inspiration, he enjoys reading, meditation, yoga, (inter)personal exploration, roaming mountains, watching clouds and sunrises.

Courtney Leung

Courtney is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago majoring in environmental science and psychology. She has always been interested in the field, particularly positive and social psychology, and how people view emotions like happiness. Beyond the lab, she enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends, and playing the piano.

Lucy Li

Lucy is a current undergraduate student at Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in psychology with double-minors in sociology and Spanish. She has a passion for moral psychology, and is broadly interested in the social influences of morality and its effects on children’s behaviors and choices. Outside of the lab, Lucy enjoys listening to music, traveling, and exploring new hobbies.

Meriel Doyle

Meriel is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago, majoring in Psychology and Neuroscience and minoring in Philosophy. She is very interested in moral psychology and evolutionary psychology, especially topics concerning moral intuition and intuitive dualism. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking, reading, and playing the violin.

Matthew Tineo

Matthew Tineo is a second-year undergraduate student majoring in psychology at the University of the Pacific. He is doing a summer internship at the Human Nature and Potentials Lab through the Leadership Alliance. He is interested in developmental psychology, specifically in how shyness and temperament develops in children. Outside of the lab, he enjoys music, movies, and reading.

Student Collaborators

Kate Yang

Kate Yang

Ph.D. Student at Yale University

Isobel Heck

Isobel Heck

Ph.D. Student at the University of Chicago

Yena Kim

Yena Kim

Lab Manager of APEX Lab at the University of Chicago

Joseph Heffner

Joseph Heffner

Ph.D. Student at Brown University

Stella Gerdemann

Stella Gerdemann

Ph.D. Student at Leipzig University

Previous Undergrad RAs

Audrey Sze
Adiah Coffey
Efe Dogruoz
Lucy Liang
Youyi Wu