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 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 (though not very active).

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, adjusting to being a dad, and being a contrarian.

Post Docs

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.

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.


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).


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.


Visiting Scholars

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.


Lab Manager

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


Tali is a firm believer in multipotentiality. Beyond academia, Tali loves riding her motorcycle, reading books, writing articles, painting, illustrating and singing along with her guitar. Her site


Research Assistants

Megan Prosser is a senior undergraduate student at UW-Madison, majoring in Psychology and Neurobiology. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school and hopes to pursue a career in Dermatology

Her main interests are how language affects cognition and perception, as well as the cultural disparities in language. She is a Minnesotan native and the youngest of four. Some of her hobbies include dancing, reading, cooking, and traveling. The key to her heart is puppies, back massages, and naps.



Vanessa Chavez comes from Chihuahua, Mexico. She is currently studying Neurobiology and Computer Sciences and will be graduating in the Spring of 2019. After graduation she hopes to either attend medical school or attend graduate school for computer sciences.


In her free time, she especially enjoys cooking, visiting the food carts at Library Mall, being a barista at Union South, and visiting coffee shops around Madison in search for the best hot chocolate.


Alex Melman is a web developer and organizer based in Madison. A slow-burning fascination with cognitive psychology led him to volunteer in the lab. He doesn’t yet have well-defined research interests, but is especially drawn to work around linguistic concept formation and activation.


In his spare time, Alex loves to cook feasts for his friends. He earned his BA in Economics and Environmental Studies from Brandeis University.



Henry Barford is a sophomore undergraduate studying Linguistics and Philosophy. A Madison native, his interests center around semantics, cognitive linguistics, epistemology and ethics, in particular: how linguistics underpin knowledge, how language affects perception and cognition, and how we perceive and express moral concepts and judgement through language.


In his spare time, Henry enjoys cycling, nordic skiing, songwriting, cooking, and cultivating a social media presence so barren as to be an archaeological curiosity


Kevin Fischer is a Senior majoring in Computer Sciences.  Upon graduating, he plans to flee the Arctic weather of Wisconsin and work as a software developer for a couple years.


He enjoys reading, theoretical physics (not so much the actual math physics unfortunately), playing just about any sport with friends (except kickball where he has a propensity to break his ankle).  Moderate to critical obsessions include Harry Potter and the Green Bay Packers.


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).

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.

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.


Former Research Assistants

Annie Gense

Sam Ramakrishnan

Sydny Fink

Elizabeth Garfinkel

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

Katrina Officer