VIMLab Fall 2015, left to right: Julia Newell, Sara Doyle, Ben Smith, Lucas Carden, Jesse Graham, Kate Johnson, David Psychology Newman, Carol Iskiwitch, Marlon Mooijman, Bryna Tsai, Joe Hoover, Derek Harmon, Framed Erica Beall, Jennifer Talevich, Peter Meindl.


Principal Investigator

Jesse Graham

Jesse principally investigates the moral, ideological, and religious principles that cause so much conflict and yet provide so much meaning to people's lives. He is particularly interested in how ideological and moral values shape behavior outside of conscious awareness, and in how these effects vary across individuals and cultures.


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Lab Manager

Katie Horton
Katie received her BA as a double major in Integrative Biology with an emphasis in Human and Health Science and Marine Science from UC Berkeley in 2016. She has a broad range of interests, from her project in French Polynesia on regeneration to mental illness. She hopes to gain acceptance into an MD program sometime in the near future. Currently, she is also the lab manager for Dr. Darby Saxbe's Neuro-Endocrinology of Social Ties (NEST) Lab and Dr. Morteza Dehghani's Computational Social Science Lab. Katie is also certified to wield fairly large needles and jab them into your veins to suck out your life force. Contact:



Marlon Mooijman
Marlon aims to understand contemporary challenges in psychology, leadership and management. Corporations and societies too often fail to understand why (social) problems keep recurring. By employing a behavioral- scientific approach, Marlon elucidates why we behave in certain ways and how we can improve ourselves to achieve better outcomes. His focus lies in understanding the role of (1) power and status, (2) morality and ethics, and (3) political beliefs and ideologies. At USC, he mainly works with Dr. Graham on the moralization of self-control.


Graduate Students

Erica Beall
Erica is interested in the use of implicit methods to investigate psychological relationships between moral judgments and political ideologies. She would also like to explore the roles of emotion and self-regulation in moral and political cognition. Erica is still dissertating, but has just begun a tenure-track faculty position at St. John's College!


Joe Hoover
Joe uses computational and experimental methods to study moral phenomena across multiple levels of analysis. In particular, he is interested in using naturally occurring data, such as those collected from social media, to investigate the development and spread of moral beliefs and sacred values and to build predictive models of moral behavior. At a lower levels of analysis, he is also interested in dynamic system models of moral cognition.


Carol Iskiwitch
Carol is interested in moral metacognition as well as how moral judgments change, whether over time or by context. She is interested in using computational, observational, and experimental methods to explore these topics. Carol is co-advised by Jesse Graham and Steve Read.


Kate Johnson
Kate is interested in how group identities and social norms shape individuals' moralities and affect how people perceive and react to moral situations. She is also interested in exploring the underlying differences between prescriptive and proscriptive morals and how these differences affect our understanding of moral psychology.


Pete Meindl

Pete's research focuses on understanding foundational issues of moral cognition, and using moral psychology to encourage positive behaviors like charitable giving and self-control.


So Young Choe
I am interested in moral emotion and moral judgment. To elaborate, I want to know how individual differences in emotion and personality are related to moral decision-making. My first publication came out in Judgment and Decision Making. After getting a Master's in psychology at Seoul National University followed by pre-doctoral training at CU Boulder, now I've become one of those PhD students who try to figure out how to graduate. With biology background from undergrad (SNU) and fMRI experiences, I hope to conduct experiments that entail physiology and neuroimaging as well as behavioral studies. p.s. Please don't call me 'So.' 'So Young' is my first name.

Tim Hayes
Tim came to USC from New York City, where he earned his BFA in Jazz Piano Performance before becoming interested in psychology and completing post-baccalaureate coursework and working as a research assistant in two labs at CUNY Hunter College. Tim's primary research interests lie in the areas of norms, social influence, and persuasion, with a particular emphasis on the effects of source ideology on message construal, and the potentially moderating influences of moral message content on traditional persuasion outcomes. Tim is 28 years old, and his real life, outside of his imagination, is very, very sad indeed. He is a second-year graduate student in the social psychology PhD program. His expected graduation date is May 2046.


Jen Labrecque
Jen is a third-year graduate student in the social area working with Dr. Wendy Wood.  Her primary research program focuses on exploring the mechanisms involved in habitual control of behavior, and strategies individuals can use to harness their habits in order to accomplish their goals. Inspired by a series of studies from collaborator Dr. David Neal, along with discussions sparked in Dr. Jesse Graham's ideology and morality seminar, Jen is also excited to begin a project examining implications of embodiment for emotional decision-making.


David B. Newman
David is a Ph.D.student in social psychology working primarily with Norbert Schwarz and Arthur Stone. He is interested in subjective well-being and decision making as well as the relationships among religion, culture, and well-being. In each of these areas, David is particularly interested in using experience sampling techniques to measure daily and momentary states of well-being. At USC, he hopes his research will interest him enough to stay awake when presenting at conferences. 


David T. Newman
David is a PhD student in Management and Organization at USC's Marshall School of Business, working primarily with Scott Wiltermuth. He is interested in developing moral foundations theory, exploring the relationship between moral psychology and law, designing ethical systems for businesses, and empirically validating the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. Seriously. An unpracticed lawyer and frequent contrarian, David can often be found rebelling without a proximate cause. 


Ben Smith
Ben joined USC in 2013 under primary advisor Prof. Steve Read. Methodologically, he's interested in using computational modeling techniques to simulate neurological and psychological processes. Moral psychology, particularly its intersection with political psychology, the neural bases of moral values, and decision-making are the functions of the brain Ben is most interested in studying. He's also interested in the implications psychological and neurological findings have for public policy. 

Arianna Uhalde
Arianna is a PhD student in marketing at USC's Marshall School of Business. In one stream of research, she studies consumers' psychological and behavioral responses to brand transgressions. She is particularly interested in how consumers respond when a beloved person brand (e.g., Tiger Woods; Paula Deen; Bill Clinton) acts immorally. In a second stream of research (which is not particularly relevant to values, ideology, or morality), Arianna explores consumers' pursuit of "aversive" experiences, or experiences that elicit negative emotions. She's trying to figure out why sane people sometimes subject themselves to extreme discomfort--by participating in Tough Mudder runs, watching horror movies, eating disgusting foods, etc. 



Research Assistants

Sara Doyle
Sara is currently a second year undergraduate at USC and she is double majoring in Communication and Psychology. She is particularly interested in Social Psychology, so the research in the SAND and VIM labs are closely aligned with her interests. She started working in the SAND lab last semester under Dr. Stephen Read as a research assistant, helping run an experiment interested in morality choices based off the equity versus equality principle. This semester she is continuing this work under the direction of doctoral student, Ben Smith, in the SAND and VIM labs. She is also a member of a social sorority on campus and volunteers as a personal tutor at a local high school every week. In her free time, she enjoys going to see live music and discovering new places to eat around the Downtown L.A. area.


Amit Oldak
Amit is currently pursuing a B.A. in both Psychology and Philosophy at USC. After college he hopes to pursue graduate level education in the field of psychology and eventually achieve a Psy.D. Under Ben Smith he will help study how humans form personal conceptions of justice.


Kasey Katz
Kasey is currently a Junior at USC and is majoring in Social Sciences major with an Emphasis in Psychology. She is double minoring in Consumer behavior and Criminality & Forensics. She is interested in the way humans think and how they make difficult life choices throughout hardships in life. She plans on going to law school following her undergraduate studies to pursue her plans of becoming a criminal defense lawyer, with the hopes of helping people in her community.


Elisa Shimada
Elisa is a third year undergraduate student double-majoring in Sociology and Social Science with an Emphasis in Psychology. She is interested in research on romantic relationships, specifically how socioeconomic status affects communication, conflict resolution, and parenting. After graduation, she plans to get her PhD in Sociology or Social Psychology, and to become a professor in one of these fields.


Jun Yun Leung
Jun is a second year undergraduate student studying psychology. He is interested in how group membership influences the way that we see members of our own or other groups. Most specifically, Jun is interested in gender differences and how identifying as a "man", "woman", something in-between, or something completely different affects what types of actions, performed by whom, we perceive to be acceptable or not acceptable.


Sherry Wei
Sherry is studying psychology with interests in applied analytics and human resource management. She's considering going to graduate school to study something in the field of industrial/organizational psychology, and is interested in how people's values shape the way they see the world, judge others, and behave (especially when they differ from her own). In her free time, she enjoys listening to indie artists, reading, and writing.


Gwenyth Portillo-Wightman
Gwenyth is second year undergraduate student, majoring in cognitive science and minoring in Italian. At the VIM Lab, she works as a research assistant under Carol Iskiwitch. She is especially interested in moral development, cognitive dissonance, and group dynamics. Unrelated to morality, her interests include linguistics, specifically phonology and language acquisition. In the future, she would like to attend graduate school to obtain a PhD and later work in the field of psycholinguistics. Outside of academics, Gwenyth can be found hiking and exploring Los Angeles.


Giulia Corno
Giulia Corno is a freshman at USC studying Neuroscience and Political Science. She is interested in studying how people shape their political views and what can be done to sway people to another viewpoint. She also would like to research how people can be made to compromise, and how the current bipartisanship seen in the US can be mitigated. When she isn't studying, Giulia can be found driving (she loves American Muscle cars) or going to interesting cafes and museums around LA.


Tingyee Chang
Tingyee is a sophomore studying Cognitive Science and Philosophy. She is a student consultant with USC Los Angeles Community Impact (LACI) and serves as a Senator in USC Undergraduate Student Government (USG). Her research interests include: decision-making, language processing, and behavioral economics.


Guest Stars/Honorary VIMLabbers:

Charisse Corsbie-Massay

Morteza Dehghani

Pete Ditto

Nate Fast

Monique Fleming

Andrea Glenn

Megan Heller

Ravi Iyer

Sena Koleva

Rajiv Maheswaran

John Monterosso

Tage Rai

Brian Rathbun

Steve Read

Simone Schnall

Barry Schwartz

Andrew Shtulman

David Tannenbaum

Hulda Thorisdottir

Piercarlo Valdesolo

Scott Wiltermuth

Wendy Wood