What we do
Research in the SaxeLab is motivated by big questions: How does the human brain — an electrical and biological machine — construct abstract thoughts? What aspects of our brains and minds are universal, shared by all humans, and how much is specific to a culture, or unique to an individual? How do children’s brains change as they grow up? How do developmental disorders, like autism, affect brain development?
We often ask these questions about social cognition: how people think about people. We ask: how do people figure out what someone else knows, wants, or feels? How do they use that information to communicate or teach, to make moral judgements, or to exacerbate or repair conflicts? What brain regions are involved, and what specifically are they doing? How does this system work in adults, in children, and even in infants? How can computational models capture human observers’ sophisticated inferences about other people?
One of our core values is improving transparency and reproducibility of scientific research. We participate in the Open Science Reproducibility Project: Psychology, and in Many Babies. We share the stimuli from all of our studies on this website, along with results from our widely used Theory of Mind Localizer task; and we are increasingly sharing protocols through OSF, and fMRI data through OpenNeuro.
To read our lab's diversity statement, please visit this page.
For people interested in participating
Our research is only possible because people help us out by letting us study their minds and brains. Here is where to learn more about:
- Participating in research on brain development, with your infant or child
- Participating in research relevant to Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Signing up to participate in a wide range of studies conducted at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department
You can also email the lab manager, Emily, directly to learn more.
For researchers: our scientific projects
We always have many specific projects going on in the lab, led by our fabulous lab members. These projects cover a wide range of topics and methods. Some examples include:
- Building a computational model of human observers’ inferences of complex emotions
- Investigating the neural substrates and computations underlying endogenous attention in development
- Measuring the development of cortical responses to faces and scenes in human infants
- Linking infants’ looking time to measures of regional brain activity with fNIRS
- Relating infants’ understanding of people and and their understanding of objects using behavioral and neural measures
Come work with us
We often have open positions for undergraduate research assistants. And once every year or two, we hire a new technical assistant or lab manager, a new graduate student, and a new post-doc. To work in our lab, you will need curiosity and commitment. A lot of the research we do requires computer skills, especially coding (e.g. MATLAB or python) and statistics (e.g. SPSS or R). We also need help doing outreach and education for families and communities.
- UROPs: We sometimes list available UROPs at the UROP office, but students can also contact me (Prof Saxe) or lab managers to ask if there is a position available. We currently do not have open UROP positions for Fall 2020. Typically we ask UROPs to work for credit for their first semester in the lab, while they are mostly being trained. Many of our long-term UROPs are funded by either the UROP office or our grants. UROPs who stay in the lab more than two semesters often get to play significant roles in research projects, and some have earned authorship on published papers.
- Graduate students: Potential graduate students should apply through the BCS graduate program application. We also accept post-bac students (a two year program prior to PhD applications) through the Post-baccalaureate Research Scholars Program in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. I am not planning to accept new graduate students in the 2021-2022 cycle.
- Post-doctoral positions: Potential post-docs should write directly to me (Prof Saxe), describing their training and interests. I do not currently have funding for a post-doc, and am trying to keep the size of the lab small, so I am not actively recruiting any new people to the lab. However, I am open to ideas for new lines of work that are aligned with my current interests (see list of current interests, and our recent papers) and could be supported by external funding; at a minimum, if you send me concrete ideas, I will give feedback.
- Please note that I am not currently planning any new projects about Autism or false belief tasks.
To get to know us better, you can:
- Read Rebecca's mentorship philosophy
- Talk to our alumni to learn more about the lab climate, mentorship style, and more
- Watch one of Rebecca’s recent talks here or here
- Check out our photo album
- Read one of our recent papers, on fMRI in human babies or on models of emotion knowledge.
Sometimes we post links to job applications on our website. Please visit our Contact page for details about specific job postings.