Principal Investigator

Gary Lupyan is a Professor of psychology at UW-Madison. He joined the department as assistant professor in 2010. At the core of his research program are questions like: What does language do for us? What would humans be like without language? Why are languages the way they are and what makes them change? Email Gary at for questions/comments/interest in collaboration, and random trivia. He's @glupyan on Twitter.

See the Vitae for a full list of publications/presentations, and Gary’s Google Scholar Profile

When he’s not thinking about science (science!), he is flying, traveling (...well, used to pre-pandemic), and parenting two very energetic boys.

Lab Manager

Magdalen (Maggie) Stone graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in psychology. She is particularly interested in how language perception affects human interactions, how languages form, and the overall study of pragmatics in linguistics.

Outside of studying linguistics and the effect language has on human cognition, Maggie spends her free time learning guitar, reading books, and writing stories. Her favorite authors are Stephen King, Raymond Carver, and Ernest Hemingway – all of whom have shaped her interest in how language, stories, and even singular words can affect the mind.

Graduate Students

Matt Borman studied Spanish and Political Science and is currently preparing for graduate study in Psychology. He’s currently researching how aspects of short and long-term language experience impact knowledge and cognitive processes.

His interests include semantic and episodic memory, representations of knowledge and how language experience impacts word/concept learning and the structure of our knowledge. He's also interested in how our immediate context interacts with long-term experience while we learn new words or interpret speech and events. When he's not doing that, he likes working on (read: breaking) his old Triumph GT6, Dungeons and Dragons, and computery-stuff.


Yuguang Duan is a graduate student in the Cognitive and Computer Sciences area. She is broadly interested in human being(perception, cognition and emotion) and is trying to figure out the mechanisms underneath human intelligence.


To be more specific, her research interests lie in how language facilitates cognition, say, how we acquire categories and abstract concepts by being exposed to languages, and how this in turn boosts our capacities in other areas. Previously she is an NLP (natural language processing) person, and has done some computational linguistics work in Peking University as an undergraduate student. Her curiosity about human being then drove her to pursue a career in Psychology. It also leads her to explore human being through other forms, e.g., drama. In her spare time, she just indulges herself in all kinds of art


Ella Qiawen Liu earned a Master of Science in quantitative methods from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, which cultivated in her a modeling interest, and she hopes to develop models that process language at the pragmatic level. 

Qiawen is broadly interested in how language plays a role in making analogies, how human creatively compose and understand language, and how we infer hidden connections between concepts, with or without context. “The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above the water.” During her bachelor’s training as a translator, she has always wondered what happens in cognition when writers weave symbols and metaphors into these implicit, beautiful icebergs, and how readers can grasp the whole icebergs just from the symbolic tips floating between words. She plays piano, cello, and a very old fashioned Chinese instrument. When she has time she’ll be haunting the second floor of Terrace where they keep a beautiful Steinway!

Kira Breeden is a PhD student in psychology in the cognition and cognitive neuroscience area. She completed her Bachelors in Cognitive Science at the University of Michigan and her Masters in Data Science at Northwestern University.  

Her interests center around language and cognition and she hopes to explore individual differences in how cognition may be augmented by language.

Aja Altenhof is a graduate student in Linguistics broadly interested in how cognitive, linguistic, and evolutionary forces interact with the development and acquisition of meaning, both social and conventional.

More specifically, she is drawn to synonymy – individual differences in the understanding of synonyms, the cognitive process that make synonymy possible and the mechanisms that drive synonyms apart.  Before coming to Madison, Aja completed a B.A. in Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania and a MSc in the Evolution of Language and Cognition at the University of Edinburgh.


Research Assistants

Zhimin Hu
Zhimin Hu is a senior undergraduate majoring in computer science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His academic interests broadly lie in bridging the gap between natural and machine intelligence.

He navigates the multifaceted intersections of computational neuroscience, cognitive science and artificial intelligence (AI), gravitating toward two pivotal spheres: leveraging AI to advance scientific discovery about intelligence and exploring bio-informed AI system. Outside of his academic endeavors, he can be found engaging in road cycling, participating in track and field events, or immersing himself in modern art and fashion design.

Jack Bartzen is a senior Psychology student with an Asian American studies certificate. He is hoping to graduate school to continue studying Cognitive Psychology upon graduation, where he can continue studying how language augments and influences.

In particular, he is interested in learning how language influences our understanding of abstract or complex ideas (i.e. metaphors, analogies) and studying the different ways in which the structure of language allows for the rapid developmental acquisition of it.

Callin Dai is a senior majoring in psychology, with minors in Education and Educational Services, and Data Science. She is broadly interested in how language learning shapes individual differences in cognition, as well as the application of LLMs in investigating the development of human language.  

In the future, She plans to explore more about how language acquisition impacts human intelligence in general, and the potential of LLMs to decode and support this aspect of cognitive development.“In her spare time, She loves to go to art/history museums and parks.

Zach Studdiford is an undergraduate student studying Computer Science. He is interested in how new models and frameworks can be used to understand language learning and cognition. When not working on experiments in the lab, Zach is developing game-based predictive models of child learning for Field Day Learning Games. he also enjoys performing and teaching jazz piano in Madison and Minneapolis.  
Eleanor Flanigan is a sophomore majoring in Psychology and Philosophy. She is interested in how cognitive functions are influenced by both natural and formal languages, and hopes to explore how diverse features of languages exist and originate.  

After college, she plans to go to graduate school for Cognitive Psychology and continue studying how language influences understanding of the world. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, painting, and producing student films

Kate Paape graduated from University of Wisconsin Madison with degrees in Philosophy and Music Composition. She is broadly interested in inner speech, how external stimuli (such as language or music) affect mental states, and how we come to develop and use the mental models we have to build on existing knowledge and create new insights.  

Former Post Docs

Lilia Rissman completed her PhD in Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University. She studies the mapping between semantic and conceptual knowledge, asking: what pressures lead languages to be similar to each other, and what pressures lead languages to differ? How do these pressures affect learning, and what is the structure of the linguistic knowledge children will ultimately acquire?

Jeroen van Paridon is a postdoctoral research associate in the Lupyan lab. Before coming to UW-Madison, he was at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands. Jeroen is trying to better understand how we acquire and represent the meaning of words, and how these representations affect our perception and cognition.

Marcus Perlman came from hot UC Merced to cold UW Madison to work with Gary and study the creation and evolution of languages (e.g. through communication games in the lab). 


His research interests generally fall at the intersections of language, gesture, evolution, and apes. Previously he was a postdoc and lecturer in the Cognitive and Information Sciences department at UC Merced, and before that, a postdoc at the Gorilla Foundation where he studied the gorilla Koko. When he’s doing other stuff, Marcus enjoys walking around, LeBron James and the Miami Heat, and mewing back at his noisy cat Penelope.

Lewis Forder moved to Madison from the University of Sussex in the UK to study the relationship between visual perception, language and categorization. He will be using EEG/ERPs to look at the time course of this relationship. 


His PhD thesis focused on examining the time course of color processing in the human brain and how color language affects this color processing. In his last post doc position he investigated the neural mechanisms underpinning rational and irrational decision making in a gaming environment. When he’s not working, Lewis can generally be found rummaging through music stores and trying to learn the guitar (but rarely both at the same time).

Lynn Perry is an Assistant Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. She is interested in children’s word learning, categorization, and the impact of language on cognition. Visit her site.


Bastien Boutonnet comes from Bangor in rainy (and windy) Wales, UK where he did his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Guillaume Thierry.


He worked as a postdoc in the Lupyan Lab studying the influence of language on categorical and perceptual processes by using neurophysiological measures like EEG in conjunction with brain stimulation TMS. The aim of the work carried out in this post-doc was to uncover a little bit more of the underlying dynamics of language-perception effects. When he’s not studying brains, Bastien likes to act, sing and dance and sometimes all three at the same time! Bastien also misses Yorkshire Tea in the US and will gladly accept donations of such British goods.

Justin Sulik moved to Madison from Edinburgh, where his PhD investigated cognition at the symbolic threshold, looking at the effects of relevance, context and novelty on how humans infer the meaning of various signals, and at how this ability compares with inference in animals.


Other areas of interest include the nature of hypothesis generation (i.e. abduction, as opposed to inductive hypothesis evaluation), insight problem solving, analogy, the evolution of rationality, and pragmatics. The central question of his postdoc project at UW-Madison is what makes some explanations more satisfying than others from a psychological (as opposed to a philosophical, normative) point of view. This research will also explore whether psychologically satisfying explanations are more stable or more likely to spread, and at individual differences in the kinds of explanations people are willing to accept. Outside of work, most of his time is spent reading about, thinking about, playing around with, and ultimately consuming food. He was very pleased to find that Wisconsin’s fried cheese curds turned out to be just as exciting as he was promised, and that UW produces its own ice cream.

Molly Lewis completed her PhD in Developmental Psychology at Stanford and her BA in Linguistics at Reed College. Her research focuses on understanding how linguistic meaning is acquired in cognitive development, changes over historical time, and varies cross-linguistically. She is also interested in issues related to scientific replicability and reproducibility.


Hettie Roebuck completed her PhD in Psychology at the University of Lincoln (UK). Currently she is exploring the inter-relationship between language and cognition. Hettie’s interests stem from a background in auditory and visual executive function in typical and atypical development.


Her primary research has investigated the role and source of listening effort on different aspects of cognition. Her PhD explored how the demand of effortful listening associated with mild hearing loss affected different aspects of cognition, e,g, sustained attention, inhibition and working memory. She was then keen to apply her knowledge and experience in listening effort and cognition to investigate how other processing difficulties may be inducing similar demands in neurodeveopmental disorders (i.e., Specific Language Impairment, Central Auditory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorders). Currently she is exploring how we identify and represent what we see and hear, and how our language abilities and strategies for forming representations are related to our cognitive performance. Out of the lab, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, painting, baking and going to the gym to offset the effects.

Christina Schonberg earned a B.A. in Psychology from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from UCLA. Their research interests include language and cognitive development in infants and toddlers who are raised in different types of language environments (e.g., monolingual vs. bilingual).


Previously, Christina has studied the effects of language background in domains such as cognitive flexibility, visual attention, and word learning. Here at UW, Christina continues to investigate the interaction between early word learning and conceptual development through a joint project between the Lupyan Lab and the Learning, Cognition, and Development Lab (UW-Madison Department of Educational Psychology).


Ellise Suffill is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the LCD Lab and Lupyan Lab. She moved to UW-Madison after completing her PhD at the University of Edinburgh. Ellise is interested in how children learn concepts and how language helps children categorize objects in the world. She is also interested in how (or whether) people come to have the same concepts and categories as each other and how labels influence this process.

Former Graduate Students

Ashley Wendorf is a graduate student in the Cognitive and Cognitive Neurosciences area.


She did her undergraduate studies right here at UW Madison, majoring in Psychology with a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Before embarking on a PhD program, she ran off to Korea for a year to experience how issues of language and culture play out in the real world. Her research interests include but are not limited to: language evolution, language change, linguistic relativity, and conceptual metaphor. In her free time, she enjoys talking to her cat in Korean, crafting cocktails, and making food that looks as delicious as it tastes.


Pierce Edmiston is a graduate student in the Cognitive and Cognitive Neuroscience program. 


His interest in all things cognitive began after reading V. S. Ramachandran’s Phantoms in the Brain as an undergrad across the Mississippi at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University. His research focuses on the relationships between language, cognition, and sociality.  He enjoys cooking almost as much as eating, and has an emotional attachment to his iTunes folder.

Martin Zettersten is a graduate student in the Cognitive and Cognitive Neuroscience area. Visit his website.


His adventures in science began at the University of Heidelberg and included quests to Edinburgh and Leipzig. Broadly speaking, his research interests lie in the relationship between language and cognition, particularly social cognition. This leads to questions such as: Does language affect how we represent knowledge? How does language relate to our ability to understand others? Can this tell us something about the origins of language? As a member of Jenny Saffran’s Infant Learning Lab, Martin also tackles these types of questions from a developmental perspective. Outside (and sometimes inside) the lab, Martin spends his time writing whimsical songs about scientists and cheese.

Former Research Assistants

Alex Melman

Kevin Fischer


Megan Prosser


Vanessa Chavez

Annie Gense


Hannah Sugrue

Tyler McCarthy


Alex Pletsch

Elizabeth Garfinkel

Sam Ramakrishnan

Sydny Fink

Katrina Officer

Yacong Wu

Ashanti Rogers

Cher Yang

Garret Hinz

Jesse Reid

Hailey Schiedermayer

Maggie Parker

Zoe Hansen


Daniel Zych

Nita Sharma

Xiuneng Li

Sarah Kraemer

Sam Brown

Amanda Hammond (left)

Samantha Anderson

Jesse Sherman

Ariel La

Chris Kozak

Shirley Hu

Sarah Nelson

Austin Countryman

Kim Knisely

Martin Potter

Oliver Roe

Ishaan Guptasarma

Will Reinhardt

Qihong Lu

Heather Wolf

Anna Ofstead

Kyara Rozman

Henry Barford



Kayla Walton


Claire Girod