Neuroscience to improve the lives of the disadvantaged
Social and Decision Neuroscience Ph.D. @ Caltech
I research the neuroscience of poverty and discrimination. My motivation directly stems from my experiences growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood in Brazil. I have a background in Economics, including an MSc from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. When I started my studies at Brigham Young University, I became determined to dedicate my career to helping inform and create effective policies to lift those in poverty.
How do poverty and resource scarcity affect people's perceptions and behaviors?
Why do people discriminate against those who are different? What can be done to change it?
Under what circumstances are people most dishonest, both in the lab and in the field?
PhD, Social and Decision NeuroscienceCalifornia Institute of Technology
Advisor: Colin Camerer
Data, Economics and Development PolicyMITx
MSc, Economics (Mandarin taught)Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Thesis: A Bribery Game Analysis Based on Prospect Theory
BA, Economics with HonorsBrigham Young University, Provo
Minors: International Development, Mathematics, and Chinese
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Society for Neuroeconomics Conference
NYU Neuroeconomics Summer School
Midwest Political Science Association Conference
Awards and Scholarships
Shanghai Government Full Scholarship
Software and Tools
No strong evidence that social network index is associated with gray matter volume from a data-driven investigation.
With Chujun Lin, Umit Keles U, Mike Tyszka, Lynn Paul, and Ralph Adolphs.
Recent studies in adult humans have reported correlations between individual differences in people's Social Network Index (SNI) and gray matter volume (GMV) across multiple regions of the brain. However, the cortical and subcortical loci identified are inconsistent across studies. These discrepancies might arise because different regions of interest were hypothesized and tested in different studies without controlling for multiple comparisons, and/or from insufficiently large sample sizes to fully protect against statistically unreliable findings. Here we took a data-driven approach in a pre-registered study to comprehensively investigate the relationship between SNI and GMV in every cortical and subcortical region, using three predictive modeling frameworks. We also included psychological predictors such as cognitive and emotional intelligence, personality, and mood. In a sample of healthy adults (n = 92), neither multivariate frameworks (e.g., ridge regression with cross-validation) nor univariate frameworks (e.g., univariate linear regression with cross-validation) showed a significant association between SNI and any GMV or psychological feature after multiple comparison corrections (all R-squared values ≤ .1). These results emphasize the importance of large sample sizes and hypothesis-driven studies to derive statistically reliable conclusions, and suggest that future meta-analyses will be needed to more accurately estimate the true effect sizes in this field.
The Golden Age of Social Science
With Anastasia Buyalskaya and Colin Camerer
In this short essay, we argue that social science is entering a golden age, marked by explosive growth in new data and analytic methods, interdisciplinarity, and a recognition that both of those ingredients are necessary to solve hard problems. Two examples are given to illustrate these themes, which are behavioral economics and social networks. Numerous other specific study examples are then given. We also address the challenges that accompany the three positive trends, which include informatics, career incentives, and the search for unifying frameworks.
A Meta-Analysis of Bribery Experiments
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Predicting Unequal Treatment
With Colin Camerer, Ming Hsu, and Adrianna Jenkins.
Disparities in outcomes across social groups are found in nearly every domain of modern human society, including education, the labor market, and healthcare. Whether on the basis of gender, ethnicity, age or other markers, group-based differences in how people treat others are known to arise even when social group information is irrelevant and even when people explicitly reject social stereotypes. Despite progress in documenting these disparities, much remains unknown about their origins. The current research focuses on the role of individual human decision-making in producing societal-level outcomes. Specifically, the investigators aim to leverage complementary strengths of behavioral economics, social psychology, and cognitive neuroscience to uncover systematic patterns of individual human decision-making that, in aggregate, contribute to societal treatment disparities. The primary goal is to characterize the origins of unequal treatment with sufficient precision to support accurate, context-specific predictions of how people will treat members of different social groups.
Contact Hypothesis: Effects of Full-time LDS Mission Service on Discriminatory Attitudes
With Talon Hicken, Brock Kirwan, and Colin Camerer.
The extent to which international experiences change attitudes and behavior is mostly unexplored. We propose to answer this question by analyzing the changes in discriminatory attitudes and prosocial behavior of individuals called as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who are assigned to work for up to two years in varying regions of the world. Our design is equipped to find better causal identification with as-if random assignment and no self-selection. Unlike any previous study, our design will explore the effects of cross-border contact on altruistic behavior and attitudes towards an out-group. In order to address this question, subjects will participate in three tasks, a dictator game task to measure prosociality (Hutcherson, Bushong, & Rangel, 2015), a perceptual bias task (Duchaine & Nakayama, 2006), and an implicit association task (IAT) (Greenwald, Nosek, & Banaji, 2003; Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2007).
As a social neuroscientist focused on outgroup discrimination and the psychology of poverty, I firmly believe that effective teaching is a changing force in the world. My main objectives as a teacher are to help students understand principles, apply them in their work and lives, and become independent, creative thinkers who critique current concepts and develop new ones. As a Brazilian, my pedagogy is heavily influenced by Freire’s concept of dialogue. I strive to build (1) a teaching environment of kindness, (2) the development of students, (3) a personal link to the discipline, and (4) metacognition.
Teaching AssistantCalifornia Institute of Technology
Teaching AssistantCalifornia Institute of Technology
Curriculum Developer and InstructorAlhambra, CA
High School Debate
Curriculum Developer and InstructorShanghai Debate League
Get in Touch
I am always looking for collaborators. Feel free to get in touch with me through email or the contact form on this site.