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(Last updated 2/10/23)

2019 – 2020 Social Perceptions Lab Members

We call ourselves The Social Perception Lab (SPL) because nearly all of our research once addressed how people think about, understand, judge, evaluate, and perceive other people (“Social” — about people; “perception” — perceiving, inferring, understanding; “lab” — we get data on these things rather than merely spouting opinions). FOR A SUMMARY OF WORK COMPLETED IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, GO TO MY BIO PAGE (The second half of my bio focuses largely on research conducted in the last few years).  And we are still doing this work.  But much of my recent and current work focuses on various issues of scientific integrity, see my work in progress and selected publications pages for more details.

Go to my Congratulations Page! for news about recent students’ successes and milestones.


The SPL is located in room 301 Tillett Hall on Livingston Campus.


Akeela Careem: Political extremism.

Danit Finkelstein: Political extremism and other psychological dysfunctions manifesting in online social media.

Sonia Yanovsky: Political extremism.


Nathan Honeycutt (PhD, 2022). Currently research scientists at

Rachel Rubinstein (PhD, 2019). Currently tenure track at Towson University, Maryland.

Sean Stevens (PhD, 2013). Currently, Director of Polling and analytics at



Stephanie Anglin, currently a tenure track assistant professor at William Hobart & Smith College. Science Daily coverage of Stephanie’s work
Elizabeth Salib,
PhD 2014.  Research associate, Catalyst.
Sean Stevens, PhD 2013. Research Director, Heterodox Academy/NYU-Stern School of Business.
Florette Cohen, PhD 2008.  Associate Professor, Psychology.  CUNY profile.
Jarret Crawford, PhD 2008.  Professor, The College of New Jersey.  TCNJ profile.
Stacy Robustelli, PhD 2006 (Educational Psychology).
Robin Freyberg, PhD 2005 (primary advisor, Jeannette Haviland).  Yeshiva University in NYC.
Celina Chatman-Nelson, PhD 1999.  Associate Director, Graduate Career Development and Diversity and Inclusion, University of Chicago.
Stephanie Madon, PhD 1998. Professor and Graduate Chair, Iowa State U.  Home page.
Kathy Aboufadel, PhD 1995. Senior Project Manager, Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Rebecca Yen, PhD 1993, Yuan-Ze Institute of Technology, Taiwan.
Laura Pople, PhD 1993.

Note: All recipients of the Henry Rutgers Scholar Award were primarily advised by Sean Stevens, except Bryan Loh, who was adviced by Rachel Rubinstein and Brett Byll, who was advised by Akeela Careem.

Brett Byll (2020). Thesis: Understanding protest in 2020.  Essay based on this thesis can be found at FreeBlackThought.

Bryan Loh (2019). Thesis: The effects of counterstereotypic individuating information on stereotype bias in implicit and explicit person perception.  Henry Rutgers Scholar Award.

Rachel Lisner (2016), Thesis: Are political areas in psychology vulnerable to questionable research practices? 
Henry Rutgers Scholar Award, Phillips Award for Outstanding Thesis in Psychology. Rachel performed a slew of the “new forensics” (e.g., pcurves) on politicized and unpoliticized areas of psychological research, and found little evidence of problematic statistical or methodological practices in either.

Brittany Finn (2015), Thesis: Do researchers’ high moral purposes undermine scientific integrity? Henry Rutgers Scholar Award, Shah Award for Research Promise. Brittany performed a slew of the “new forensics” (e.g., pcurves) and found that evidence regarding stereotype threat and the relationship of implicit prejudice to discrimination is, at best, far weaker than usually cracked up to be.

Greta Jankauskaite (2012):  Thesis:  One Nation Under Whose God?  Greta’s thesis distinguished between religiosity and spirituality and linked both to Haidt & Graham’s Moral Foundations Theory. This was a highly original thesis and won just about every major undergraduate award at Rutgers, including the prestigious Henry Rutgers Scholar award.  Greta was also selected to be Psychology’s Commencement Speaker at graduation.

Michael Wang (2012): Thesis: The role of propaganda in genocide and polarizing group perceptions.  He exposed people to hateful propaganda but found no effect — he concluded that the propaganda he used was so outlandish that it was just dismissed as silly.

Kristin Vick (2011).  Thesis: Assessing a Scale Measuring Lying to Appear Unprejudiced. Kristin performed research validating the PC Scale (see Work in Progress for more details). The higher people scored on the PC Scale (a new scale assessing lying to appear unprejudiced) the more they claimed to know about nonexistent civil rights leaders and organizations. This thesis won a Henry Rutgers Scholar Award, which is the highest
award Rutgers gives for an undergraduate thesis.

Esti Sonnenblick (2011).  Thesis: The Effect of Ongoing Suffering on Prejudice. Esti’s thesis attempted to replicate a German study showing that making salient that Jews continue to suffer today from the after-effects of the Holocaust actually increases anti-Semitism.  Her results partially replicated the Germany study.  The effect did occur among Republicans, but not among the rest of the sample.  Esti speculated that elevated levels of belief in a just world among conservatives (well-established in other research but not tested here) explains why, after reading about ongoing suffering, anti-Semitism increased among Republicans.  Esti received Psychology’s Alice M. and Walter Phillips Award for Outstanding Thesis.

Rachel Rubinstein (2010).  Thesis: The Effects of Individuating Information and Stereotypes on Implicit and Explicit Social Perceptions of Individuals and Groups. Rachel examined whether individuating information or stereotypes were stronger influences on implicit and explicit person perception, and found individuating information was much stronger.  This thesis won a Henry Rutgers Scholar Award, which is the highest award Rutgers gives for an undergraduate thesis.  Rachel is currently a graduate student in Rutgers social psychology program.

Karin Negele (2008).  Thesis: Do Stereotypes Dominate Social Dominators? Karin examined whether people who endorse exploiting others were more biased in their stereotyping.  It turns out that they were not.

Laura Ragusa (2007). Thesis: Stereotype Accuracy Regarding Incarceration. Laura examined the (in)accuracy of people’s beliefs about the incarceration rates of various different demographic groups (African-Americans, Whites, Latinos, Men, Women, mentally ill).

Christoph Schierle (2006).  Thesis: Measuring Brain Activity While Lying to Appear Unprejudiced: An ERP Study Chris performed the first social cognitive neuroscience study associated with my lab.  ERP’s are Event Related Potentials, which are pattens of electrical activity in the brain.  Lying has been demonstrated to evoke a unique pattern of ERP’s. In this study, people’s ERP responses to the PC scale (see Romain Walker, below)
were found to be similar to those occurring when telling blatant lies (e.g., it is 90 degrees outside today — when “today” is a typical December day in New Jersey).

Gautam Bhasin (2006).  Thesis: Mortality Salience and Anti-Semitism. Gautam’s study tested these ideas, and found that under mortality salience, people: 1. became more hostile to Jews. 2. became more hostile to Israel.
3. viewed Israel as looming large (an effect occurring with no other country). 4. increased their willingness to punish Israel for human rights violations more than they increased their willingness to punish other countries (India, Russia) for the identical violation. This research was part of a series of studies published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

James Delaguila (2006).  Thesis: Political perception.  Ideology (liberal/conservative) biases people’s interpretations of news articles purporting to oppose racial profiling or support the war in Iraq.

Reshma Stafford (2005).  Thesis: Bending Over Backwards: When White’s Threatened Egalitarianism Causes Excessive Leniency towards African Americans.   Reshma performed an experiment examining hypothesis about why Whites often are more lenient (favorable) in their evaluations of the work of African Americans than in their evaluations of work of Whites.

Kathleen Kennedy (2005)  Thesis:  Social Support Opinions Validation Study.  Katie performed two studies validating a new questionnaire, the Social Support Opinion Survey.  Two validation studies examined the relationships of people’s support styles to their personality, world view, gender, and the amount and type of support that they receive themselves. These studies found significant correlations between both the SSOS Direct and Nondirect subscales and several measures of personality, received support, and world views.  In addition, both men and women were more likely to provide nondirect than direct support, but women were more likely than men to provide nondirect and less likely than men to provide direct support.  These findings support the validity of the SSOS as a measure of individuals’ support giving style.  This has become part of a paper that was published in Journal of Applied Social Psychology.  Katie went to graduate school at Princeton and is now an assistant professor at the business school at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

Sachelle Heavens (2005).  Thesis: The Political Correctness (PC) Scale: Measuring Lying to Appear Unprejudiced. Sachelle performed a combined experimental and correlational study testing the validity of the PC scale.  And found that the scale correlated beautifully with prejudice (higher pc, lower prejudice against African-Americans, Asians, and women); it correlated beautifully with three measures of lying to make one appear better than one really is; and it was highly responsive to situational pressures to appear unprejudiced. This study is part of a series (see Romain Walker, below) that is on the verge of being submitted for publication.

Romain Walker (2002).  Thesis: Politically Correct Responding.  Romain’s honors thesis involves two experimental studies assessing the validity of the PC Scale.  Romain’s thesis received an award for being one of the top psychology theses of 2002, and a slightly revised version was published in The Rutgers Scholar, volume 4.  His thesis is currently being expanded and combined with Sachelle’s and will soon be submitted for publication.

(last updated, 7/16)