Psychological & Brain Sciences Colloquium Series

Invited Speakers


Laura Simone Lewis

Date & Time: March 3rd, 2023 at 11:30 AM 

Location: Sage Room – Psych 1312 (refreshments before in Psych 1327)

Evolutionary and Cognitive Foundations of Social Relationships in Great Apes

Humans have remarkable cognitive capacities for forming and maintaining complex social relationships. Foundational among them are our abilities to recognize and remember others, represent their minds, and comprehend their emotions. Despite the centrality of these skills to humans’ social relationships, we know relatively little about their evolutionary origins. Humans’ closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, live in large social groups of up to 150 individuals but often range in smaller foraging parties that change in social composition throughout the day (i.e., fission-fusion dynamics). Consequently, they too would greatly benefit from these social cognitive skills. Importantly, the similarities and differences in the socioecology of chimpanzees and bonobos allow us to test competing hypotheses about the selective pressures that heightened humans’ capacities to form and maintain social relationships. By studying these species’ socio-cognitive abilities alongside our own human capacities, my research clarifies the extent to which the cognitive foundations of humans’ social relationships are shared with our closest relatives and were likely already present in our last common ancestor 6-9 million years ago. Utilizing non-invasive eye-tracking and other novel technologies to explore social attention and long-term memory, language comprehension, and emotion understanding in chimpanzees, bonobos, and children, my research sheds light on the phylogenetic precursors of human social cognition and the evolutionary pressures that shaped our complex forms of sociality.

About the Speaker

Dr. Laura Simone Lewis completed her PhD in Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and is currently a UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. She is working with Dr. Alison Gopnik and Dr. Jan Engelmann in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on the evolution of emotion perception and social cognitive skills in great apes.







Kimberly J. Martin

Date & Time: January 13th, 2023 at 12:00 PM

Location: Sage Room – Psych 1312 (refreshments before in Psych 1327)

Black Americans’ Healthcare Experiences: Understanding the Past and Present to Envision a More Equitable Future

The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted Black Americans' dire and disproportionately negative health outcomes and healthcare experiences. This spotlight also incited public discourse about the lack of medical trust in the Black community. Importantly, these experiences and outcomes for Black Americans began long before the COVID-19 pandemic. First, I will present data (including a nationally representative sample) that assesses the influence of the quality of healthcare experiences on medical trust and early COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy for Black Americans. Next, I will share research that examines physician-Black patient interactions that may erode medical trust from a qualitative study conducted with Black American women with breast cancer, a group with repeated exposure to the medical community. Lastly, I will discuss research that tests how learning about the stories of Black American experiences in healthcare can increase White Americans’ perspective-taking. Lastly, I will discuss the implications of my research for current policies and how medical institutions can rebuild trust with the Black community.

About the Speaker

Dr. Kimberly J. Martin completed her PhD in Social Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently a UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. She is working with Dr. Wendy Berry Mendes in the Department of Psychiatry. Her research focuses on inequity in healthcare and using evidence-based interventions to improve physician-Black patient interactions.

Learn more about her research at:






Valeria Gonzalez Diaz

Date & Time: November 18th, 2022 at 12:00 PM 

Location: Sage Room – Psych 1312 (refreshments before in Psych 1327)

Information Bias: Suboptimal features explored at the behavior and neural levels

When given a choice between a lean alternative that conveys information about the outcome of a trial versus a richer alternative without information, often animals prefer the former: they prefer information even though that alternative yields less reward. In the present set of experiments, the behavioral aspects about uncertainty sensitivity and the valence of information are evaluated. Furthermore, the role of Basolateral Amygdala and Anterior Cingulate Cortex contributions in preference regarding information value were assessed using chemogenetic manipulations; potential sex differences in information processing are discussed.

About the Speaker

Dr. Valeria Gonzalez Diaz received her PhD in Basic Psychology from Universidade do Minho, Portugal and is currently a UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is working with Dr. Alicia Izquierdo in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on the role of the frontal cortex in the suboptimal choice phenomenon.






Michael Kraus

Date & Time: October 27th, 2022 at 11:00 AM
Location: Sage Room – Psych 1312

The Narrative of Racial Progress: Realistic Perceptions and Progress Toward Diversity,
Equity, and Inclusion

In this talk, I will provide a broad overview of our research on the narrative of racial progress—the tendency for Americans to believe in the linear, automatic, and even natural march forward to racial equity and justice. The talk will begin with an overall orientation to my research approach to inequality. From there, I will describe the theoretical background of this narrative, highlighting the psychological and structural drivers of the tendency to overestimate racial equality and progress toward achieving it. Along the way I will summarize the state of the evidence in support of racial progress beliefs. Having provided this summary, I will conclude by discussing some of our emerging efforts to promote more realistic conceptions of racial inequality, and how narratives of racial progress act as barriers to the actual achievement of racial equity.

About the Speaker

Dr. Michael W. Kraus received his PhD in Psychology from the
University of California, Berkeley in 2010 and is currently an Associate Professor at the Yale University, School of Management and Department of Psychology. Prior to his current appointment, he was a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Francisco and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois. His current work explores the behaviors and emotional states that maintain and perpetuate economic and social inequality in society.

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Lauren Whitehurst

Date & Time: April 1st, 2022 at 12:00 PM
Location: Sage Room – Psych 1312

Sleep is not a luxury: links between sleep, cognitive function, and health

What makes sleep “good”? Few wake intrusions? Falling asleep once your head hits the pillow? Waking up refreshed and ready for your day? All the above? Science is still grappling with the answers to this question, yet we do know that a period of sleep helps us think, learn, and remember better. Additionally, specific neural changes during sleep support human cognitive function. My research program examines how these neural features and specific changes in the body during sleep 1) help us define “good” sleep and 2) support cognition. In this talk, I will review this body of work and identify future directions aligned with this research trajectory. Additionally, data suggests that 35% of people do not get the recommended amount of sleep at night. This widespread sleeplessness comes with significant costs to health and cognition. Yet, the burden of sleep loss does not fall on everyone equally. I will discuss disparities in sleep health and access, discuss historical links, and on-going and future projects that address these topics.

About the Speaker

Dr. Lauren Whitehurst received her B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Experimental Psychology from James Madison University in 2011 and 2013, respectively and her PhD in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside in 2018. She completed a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Center for Health and Community and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco in 2020. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Kentucky. She is also Core Faculty in the Center for Health Equity Transformation and affiliated faculty in the Department of African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky.

Speaker website: