PI: Dr. Sean Laurent (CV updated 11/30/2022)

I graduated from the University of Massachusetts and Commonwealth Honors College in 2004. At UMass, while making furniture, doing construction, and operating a kung fu school (now run by a former student!), I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Linda Isbell’s lab, then spent a year after graduation working under the supervision of Dr. Paula Pietromonaco. In 2005, I moved on to the University of Oregon, earning my PhD under the kind and patient guidance of Dr. Sara Hodges, studying topics related to empathy and perspective taking.

I received my PhD in social psychology from UO in 2010 and then worked for three years as an Assistant Lecturer in the Psychology Department at the University of Wyoming. After returning to the University of Oregon as a pro-tem instructor from 2013-2016, I joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was in that position from 2016-2021. Most recently (as of fall 2021), I accepted a new position within the Department of Psychology at Pennsylvania State University. In 2022, I was named a fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology and an Editorial Fellow at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Attitudes and Social Cognition). I study a variety of topics related to social cognition and morality, while also struggling to play disc golf badly and poorly maintaining this humble and far-less-than-excellent WordPress website.

Google Scholar

Current PhD Students

Da Eun Han (MA) joined the MASC lab in 2018. She received her B.S. in Chinese Language and Literature, but hardly speaks Chinese, which probably led her to double major in Psychology. She received her M.A. in psychology at Yonsei University in South Korea. She has been working on diverse topics such as culture, moral self, praise/blame, social status, emotions, and other topics. In particular, Da Eun is interested in how people form moral judgments, what underlies moral behavior, and the relationship between morality and an internal/external focus on the self.

Although Da Eun is continuing toward her PhD at the University of Illinois, she is also continuing to work actively with me on a number of interesting projects.

Sarah Mowrey joined the MASC lab in 2021 after receiving her BS in from Ohio State University in Psychology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Sarah is currently pursuing her PhD in social psychology at the Pennsylvania State University. She is interested in the way moral judgments affect interpersonal relationships, the connection between moral reasoning and values, and overall, the use of research to achieve social good. Sarah is currently involved in developing research regarding hypocrisy, person perception, and microaggressions.

Minjae Seo (MS) is a doctoral student in the social psychology program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she also works under the supervision of Dr. Dov Cohen. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Political Science at Yonsei University in South Korea. She is interested in cultural universals and variations in values, moral perceptions, and behaviors. She is currently working on projects related to moral emotions, intercultural relationships, and cultural differences in immoral behaviors and perceptions of hypocrisy.

Although Minjae is continuing toward her PhD at the University of Illinois, she is also continuing to work actively with me on a number of interesting projects.

Becca Ruger-Smith joined the MASC Lab in 2022 after graduating with a BS in both Psychology and Philosophy at Bradley University. Becca has a wide range of research interests, but she is particularly interested in the factors people use when forming moral judgements of others, specifically which ones we tend to care about more than others, and how we deal with particularly complex moral conundrums. Becca’s current research is on praise, blame, and moral or immoral judgements of inactions.

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Shoko Watanabe (MS*2) (CV) was born in Japan and moved to Hawaii in sixth grade, living there until moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma where she studied theology at Oral Roberts University before joining the MASC lab in the Fall of 2016.

Shoko’s research addresses questions like: 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? What role does trust play in formation and maintenance of friendship and leadership within a group?

Shoko is also a certified math teacher with an MS in Educational Psychology from Oklahoma State University. Shoko has also explored other careers in banking and restaurant management industries, but she ultimately realized that her passion was in psychology and philosophy. Outside of these topics, Shoko enjoys traveling, learning foreign languages, playing video games, and cooking.

Currently, Shoko is working on her dissertation under the supervision of Dov Cohen at the University of Illinois; however, her work with me on multiple projects continues on.

Other MASC Lab Collaborators and Contributors Past and Present

Jun-Yeob Kim (MS) (also one of the first students admitted to the MPS program and admitted to the PhD program in 2019) studies Industrial/Organizational psychology under the supervision of Dr. Daniel Newman. He received his BA in Psychology and Philosophy from the Catholic University of Korea in 2016. He is interested in exploring the ways that people’s personality traits and characteristics, such as gender and culture, influence their perceptions of leaders. Additionally, he is interested in how perceiver and leader traits interact. He is currently working on a project involving how thinking about death influences victim blaming through promoting the need to believe that the world is just.

Brandon Reich (PhD) (Webpage) earned his doctorate in Marketing at the University of Oregon, where he focused on consumer psychology. Brandon is currently on the faculty at Portland State University.

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.

Fernando Sanchez Hernandez (MS) is a PhD student in developmental psychology, working under the supervision of Dr. Dan Hyde. After receiving a BA in Jazz studies from the University of New Orleans, he moved to Minneapolis to work at the Institute of Child Development where he worked with Dr. Albert Yonas and Dr. Melissa Koenig. Fernando uses a developmental approach to examine social cognition, informed by neuroscience and behavioral economics methods. He is particularly interested in understanding mechanisms of moral cognition such as agency perception, mental state attribution, and negativity bias.

Shiyu Yang (MA) is a Ph.D student at the Gies College of Business of UIUC. She received undergraduate degrees in Economics and Psychology (double major) and an M.A. Management from Peking University. Currently she is working on a project looking at how positive moral emotions transform people’s outlook on themselves as well as on the world. Her passion in examining the micro foundations of morality also extends to discussions about societal institutions in cross-cultural contexts. She loves nature and art and believes in the value of diversity. Her favorite quote is from the anthropologist Wade Davis: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”

Undergraduate Research Assistants

The MASC lab is always interested in recruiting new undergraduate research assistants at Penn State University, particularly if they are considering social psychology as a career! If interested in applying, please see the Join Us! page.

Katie Evans is a criminology and psychology major who plans on attending graduate school for social psychology. She is interested in how people perceive others via intersectionality and also morality in “criminal” settings. During her free time, she enjoys playing soccer at Penn State and watching movies. 

Claudia Musser joined the MASC lab while a Junior at Penn State University. While studying for her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, she enjoys cooking, spending time with friends, and listening to music. She is also a campus ambassador for the women’s networking organization and part of the philanthropic and sisterhood committees for her Greek life organization. She is very invested in her work and excited to be a member of such an intriguing lab!

Ava Hofmann joined the MASC Lab in 2022 as a junior double majoring in Psychology and Sociology. Outside of classes, Ava enjoys listening to and making music, reading, and hanging out with friends. After graduating from Penn State, Ava hopes to continue her education in social psychology. 

Aron Navarrete-Jiminez joined our lab as a third-year undergraduate studying psychology and criminology. Soon after entry at PSU, Aron started getting further academic and work experience in a part-time position with the PSU IT service desk (and our lab). He would like to study forensic or social psychology in graduate school, investigating how criminal/deviant behaviors and cognitions develop.

Alejandro (Alex) Olper joined the lab as a third-year psychology major who plans to minor in Labor and Human Relationships. He is considering social psychology as a career (particularly after his time at PSU!). One of his interests is in how friendships that are made (and retained) during early adolescence differ from those made in early to middle adulthood, and in comparing these relationships in terms of satisfaction, expectations, and leniency.

Stephanie Radin joined the MASC lab as a Second-year Psychology major. After her undergraduate studies at Penn State, she plans to go to graduate school for social psychology, with the intention of becoming a school psychologist. Stephanie is currently interested in how children use their feelings and thoughts to rationalize their maladaptive behaviors in certain situations. She also wants to investigate projection, and how people assign to others how they feel about themselves.

Former MASC Lab Graduate Students

Jieming (Lois) Li graduated with a MS in psychological science in 2021 and is currently residing in her home country. She is currently applying to applied master’s programs in speech/language pathology.

Elizabeth (Liz) Lozano (MS) was one of my first PhD students 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. A few years back, she began working with Dr. R. Chris Fraley on topics related to attachment, with a particular interest in how attachment works for donor-conceived individuals. And in other great news, Liz recently graduated and accepted a position at California Northstate University. Way to go, Liz!


Chas Monge is interested in the ways in which people form beliefs about others online, and how these beliefs inform judgments about the appropriateness of toxic behaviors online. Chas received his MS in psychological science in 2021 and is now pursuing a PhD in communications from the Ohio State University.

Drew Weiner joined the MASC Lab in 2017 at UIUC, pursuing a masters degree in the (then) new Master’s in Psychological Science program. He was then admitted to the PhD program in Fall 2019. In 2021, Drew decided to leave academia to pursue other interests. We wish him all the best luck as he moves into the next chapter of his life!

Former UIUC Undergraduate Research Assistants

My deepest thanks to all of the undergraduate students who have done so much amazing work for all of us in the MASC lab, but have now moved on to bigger and better things, such as internships, teaching jobs, and of course, graduate school. We appreciate everything you did when you were with us, and wish you all the best in your bright futures!

Grace Bai, Olivia Benge, Kiley Breen, Alyssa Castronovo, Ariana Daneshbodi (now pursuing a PhD in social psychology at Iowa State University!), Austin Eichhorn, Natalia Fic, Hailey Gaba, Suryaa Gupta (now on an NIH fellowship and applying to medical school!), Colin Hardman, Sean Kirchman, Koh Kobayashi, Giovana Mete, Lucy Park, Pranav Pamidighantam (now pursuing a PhD in information sciences at UIUC!), Leslie Pardo, Priyanka Patel, Isabella Portelli, Duoduo Qi, Jessica Resnick, Matt Saxsma, Emma Schwartz, Aboorva Sivasankaran, Saheli Sheth, Jessica Vega, and Carol (Yi) Zhou.

Lab Pizza Party Photos

Smaller outdoor-post-worst-part-of-COVID-19-at-least-in-the-US-before-Delta-and-then-Omicron-and-whatever-is-next Variant(s) Pizza Party prior to my move eastward to PSU 🙂 (May 2021)

End of COVID-19 Semester Pizza Party that never happened in 2020… 😦

End of Semester Pizza Party (May 2019)

End of Semester Pizza Party (May 2018)

End of Semester Pizza Party (May 2017)