MASC Lab People

Director: Sean M. Laurent 

Current Graduate Students

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 5.54.24 PMShoko Watanabe, M.S.  CV

Shoko is a second year Ph.D. student. She was born in Japan and moved to Hawaii when she was in sixth grade. She completed middle and high school in Hawaii and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where she studied theology at Oral Roberts University. Shoko is also a certified math teacher with an M.S. in Educational Psychology from Oklahoma State University. Besides teaching, Shoko has explored other careers in banking and restaurant management industries, but she ultimately realized that her passion was in psychology and philosophy. Shoko’s research questions include: Can we attain moral perfection? When and why do people promote forgiveness? What roles do religion, perception of free will, motives for atoning, and perspective-taking play in promoting or inhibiting forgiveness? What are the contextual factors that influence perceptions of moral hypocrisy and when do people forgive or punish others for their hypocrisy? Are moral disgust and anger distinguishable emotions? Does a moral disgust or anger reaction underlie prejudicial attitudes toward interracial couples? What role does trust play in formation and maintenance of friendship and leadership within a group? Outside of these topics, Shoko enjoys traveling, learning foreign languages, playing video games, and cooking.

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Drew Weiner, B.A.  

Drew is a first-year master’s student. In 2017, he graduated from Creighton University with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in psychology and Spanish and Hispanic studies. His primary research interests revolve around wealth inequality and the social perception of individuals from varying socioeconomic statuses. He is currently working on a program of research to distinguish how individuals with different levels of wealth are blamed and praised and to identify the mechanisms driving these judgments. His other interests include just-world beliefs, victim blaming, and the mechanisms underlying moral judgments.

Graduate Student Collaborators


Elizabeth Lozano: Liz is a second year Ph.D. student in the social psychology program at UIUC. Her interests include understanding how seeing others blame (or take responsibility) for outcomes they caused influences beliefs that other, unrelated agents will also shift blame. Currently, she is working in the area of attachment, with a particular interest in how attachment works for donor-conceived individuals.


Jack McDonald: Jack is a second-year doctoral student in the social psychology program at UIUC. His primary interest is in moral psychology, specifically looking at lay perceptions of justice and just punishment. He is also doing work examining the link between political ideology and need for cognition, and has done research on cognitive dissonance.

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Brandon Reich: Brandon Reich is a Ph.D. candidate in Marketing at the University of Oregon, with a focus in consumer psychology. He is currently finishing his fourth year in the Ph.D. program and will be on the job market for a position as Assistant Professor of Marketing this summer.

Brandon’s overarching area of research centers around ethics (questions of right and wrong) in consumer spaces. Consumers and marketers usually consider ethics when making decisions, and Brandon’s research examines how these considerations shape consumer and societal well-being. He draws from theories of moral reasoning, inference making, and social cognition to develop two interrelated lines of research in this domain: (1) Marketplace blame and consumer moral judgment, (2) Sustainability through alternative consumption.

Additional details about Brandon’s research, along with a link to his CV, can be found on his webpage (

Julia Edited

Julia Spielmann: Julia received her BSc in Psychology from Humboldt University in Berlin and an MSc in Health and Social Psychology from Maastricht University. Currently, Julia is pursuing a PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Julia is interested in topics such as stigma and prejudice, with an emphasis on intersectionality (e.g., between race, sexual orientation, and gender). Her work with Dr. Chadly Stern focuses on the relationship between ideology and psychological outcomes (e.g., life satisfaction), and she is currently collaborating with the MASC Lab on research investigating the role of moral emotions (e.g., disgust and/or anger) in perceptions of interracial couples.

HanyHany Zayed: Hany is from Cairo, Egypt, and is a second year PhD student in Sociology at UIUC. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance, Economics, and Innovation Management and a master’s degree in Politics, Economics, and Philosophy. Ignited and crystallized by the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, his research interests lie primarily at the intersection of social movements, social psychology, and the sociology of media. Currently, he is working with the MASC Lab on a project investigating the effects of message and sender attributes on support for social movements.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

BreenKiley Breen: Kiley is currently majoring in psychology with a minor in leadership, communication, and philosophy. After graduating, she plans to go to graduate school to obtain a PhD in psychology. Her main interests are in in moral decision making as well as its function and representation in the brain. Other topics that interest her are consciousness, theory of mind, and cognitive neuroscience. A fun fact about Kiley is that she hopes to one day own and operate an animal sanctuary.

AlyssaAlyssa Castronovo: Alyssa is working towards a double major in Psychology and Political Science.  After graduating in May 2019, she intends to go on to law school. She is on the executive board of the Illinois Trial Team, which travels across the country competing against other universities.  Fun fact: she lost her first tooth when she was two years old, and her sister thought it would be a good idea to put her on an alligator see-saw.


PranavPranav Pamidighantam: Pranav  is currently  pursuing degrees in computer science/statistics and psychology. After graduating he plans to attend graduate school and work toward a doctoral degree in statistics, psychology, or quantitative psychology. In addition to his studies, Pranav is currently employed at Schomer and Associates, Inc., an acoustical engineering and noise control consulting firm.

PriyaPriyanka Patel: Priyanka is working towards a major in Chemistry and Psychology, and a minor in Integrative Biology. After graduating in May 2018, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine, specifically as a Pediatric Neurosurgeon. She’s also involved in Delta Kappa Delta Sorority, Inc., Alpha Chi Sigma Professional Chemistry Fraternity, Illini Thaakat Foundation, and Illini Medical Screening Society. Fun fact, she has a pet fish named Fluffy Sushi Bubbles Patel!

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 1.06.50 PM.pngSaheli Sheth: Saheli is a sophomore majoring in Psychology and considering a dual major. She’s from the wonderful town of Peoria, best known for its irresistible cornfields! A fun fact about Saheli is that her first name means “friend,” and last name means “boss,” so she likes to joke that it makes her a bossy friend. Another random tidbit is that she loves inspirational quotes, such as: “The sign of a beautiful person is that they always see the beauty in others.” Keep smiling! 🙂

AboorvaAboorva Sivasankaran: Aboorva is currently a Junior working towards her degree in psychology, and is also a LAS James Honors Scholar. She joined the MASC lab after taking a class in moral psychology because of her interest in social psychology and her fascination by how people interact with each other and why. After graduation, she hopes to travel outside the United States before going to graduate school. Fun Fact: She is currently taking ASL classes at the University.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 1.09.06 PMJessica Vega: Jessica is an undergraduate student double majoring in Sociology and Psychology with a minor in Social Work. She is currently interested in the role of social sciences within prison reforms. Born and raised in Chicago, she is the first in her family to attend college. She is a James Scholar, an executive member of LAS Council, and an active member of the Illini Boxing Club. Jessica has been part of the Morality and Social Cognition lab since the Fall of 2016. Fun Fact: Jessica enjoys cooking, especially Mexican dishes.

Past Undergraduate Lab Members

Jose Gonzalez: Jose was a research assistant from 2016-2018 and is currently pursuing a goal of pursuing research experience in neuroscience.

Lucy Park: Lucy was a research assistant from 2016 to 2017 and is currently majoring in Psychology with an intended concentration is Organizational Psychology at U of I.

Jessica Resnick: Jessica graduated in 2017 with a major in Psychology (Social/Personality Psychology concentration) and a minor in Communication. She is now pursuing a career in counseling.

Carol Zhou: Carol (Yi Zhou) was a research assistant from 2016 to 2107, and is currently a third year Psychology major at UIUC.

Lab Photos

End of Semester Pizza Party (May 2017)