Principal Investigator

Gary Lupyan is an Associate 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 they way they are and what makes them change? Email Gary at for questions/comments/interest in collaboration, and random trivia.

See the Vitae for a full publication/presentation list, and Gary’s Google Scholar Profile

When he’s not thinking about science (science!), he is flying, traveling, couchsurfing, hand-drumming, and being a contrarian.

Post Docs

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




Graduate Students

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.           


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.

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.


Visiting Scholars

Michelle Quinn received her BA in psychology from U of Notre Dame and her MA degree in speech language pathology from the U of Iowa. 


 She’s currently a dissertator at the U. Iowa and a clinical professor in CSD at UW-Madison.  Intrigued by how language comprehension encompasses both the immediate visual context and what knowledge listeners brings to bear, Michelle studies how 1) conditions of increased uncertainty or 2) individual differences in semantic knowledge influence word recognition.  Michelle relishes time with family, walks (esp. at the beach), and conversing—over good tea, coffee, whiskey and/or song.

Jonathan Lang received his PhD in Philosophy in 2014 from UW, specializing in Philosophy of Psychology/Cognitive Science.


 As a philosopher, he is interested in understanding the nature of cognitive explanation and the explanatory differences between alternative modeling frameworks.  As an empirical researcher, he is interested in trying to rethink traditional philosophical problems about the mind (especially ones regarding perception) so as to render them amenable to empirical study.  His current research revolves around the conceptual issue of how to define cognitive penetration and the empirical issue of how to test for its occurrence.  When he is not in the lab or working on his dissertation, Jonathan enjoys studying Russian and composing music for advertisements.


Lab Manager

Tali Despins is a UW Madison graduate. She plans to continue her studies in psychology, focusing on cognitive neuroscience, while taking on various motorcycle adventures on her free time.

Tali is passionate about the implications of scientific knowledge. Namely, our urgent need to redefine central concepts like subjectivity, perception, and learning, in order to better correspond with our scientific understanding of the brain and the inner-workings that give rise to those experiences. Besides science, Tali spends her spare time immersed in artwork, ranging from digital illustration to theatrical makeup and videography. She loves literature and fascinated with argumentation and debate. Tali is a firm believer in multipotentiality, and enjoys drawing from her creative background when critically evaluating scientific discoveries. Her site


Research Assistants

Jesse Reid is a junior majoring in psychology with a possible second major in Portuguese. 


After graduation, he is planning on applying to graduate school. His main interests in the field of psychology include: language evolution, how we perceive the world around us, cognitive processes related to learning new languages, and animal behavior and communication. In his free time, he enjoys playing drums, traveling, trying new foods, and going to concerts.

Hailey Schiedermayer is a freshman studying psychology and Biology. She is planning on attending medical school after graduation, with the intention to become a psychiatrist.  


Language, perception and learning are only a few of her interests in psychology. A few of her other interests are abnormal psychology, neuroscience, and child psychology. She is a Welton Summer Sophomore Apprentice this summer in Professor Jenny Saffran's lab, with the hope to collaborate with both her and Professor Gary Lupyan on her senior honors thesis.s a senior majoring in Psychology and Anthropology, with plans to continue her  psychology studies in graduate school.



Sydny Fink is a Junior studying psychology and Criminal justice.  After graduation, she plans to go to graduate school for clinical psychology and later hopes to become a therapist.

Her main interests are in behavioral and social psychology, and the question on how language affects both these topics.  She has an interest in traveling and has studied abroad in both England and South Korea where she learned the korean language. In her free time she paints, create sculptures and practices korean. "

Zoe Hansen  is a sophomore studying psychology with a possible second major in English. She plans to pursue a PhD after graduation.


Zoe is primarily interested in developmental psychology and behavioral neuroscience. She has a passion for culture and travel, and hopes to gain a global perspective when studying psychology. Is the research performed at this university subjective to our westernized culture? Zoe spends a lot of her free time singing, exploring literature, engaging in lively debate, or drinking coffee at a local coffeehouse.


Maggie Parker is a sophomore studying Psychology. She is primarily interested in behavioral neuroscience and may pursue a PhD in the future.  

With intentions to have a career in psychological research, Maggie is planning on furthering her education by applying to graduate school after graduation. She believes a career in the field of psychology, specifically neuropsychology,  will expose her to the interesting complexity of behavioral neuroscience on a daily basis. Her interests outside of psychology include learning/speaking French, reading, and watching movies.

Yacong Wu is a senior majoring in Psychology. She is planning to go to graduate school in counseling or clinical psychology 
Yacong is primarily interested in mental health, especially depression and anxiety disorder, so she is thinking to be a therapist. However, she also found herself quite interested in cognition, language and mind specifically, so it is still undecided which field she would pursue in the future. B.T.W. She is a huge food lover.


Lab Alumni

Former Post Docs

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.

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).

Former Research Assistants

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

Katrina Officer