Zoe Liberman

Liberman zoe photo

Associate Professor

Research Area

Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology Social Psychology


Zoe Liberman received her B.S. in Psychology from Yale University (2011) and her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Chicago (2016), where her research was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Zoe joined the faculty of University of California Santa Barbara in 2016. She was named a Rising Star by the American Psychological Society in 2017.


Zoe Liberman investigates the origins and development of human social cognition. She is particularly interested in how infants begin to understand our complicated social world, as well as how this understanding changes across development and is shaped by experience. Her research focuses on early social categorization. She finds that, starting in the first year of life, infants expect people who speak the same language to be similar to one another and to affiliate. These results suggest that the ability to think about people as members of important social categories is in place in infancy. Dr. Liberman is also interested in the malleability of early social categorization, including the effects of growing up in a multilingual (or otherwise diverse) environment. In addition to her research with infants, Dr. Liberman conducts studies with 3- to 11-year-old children at the Santa Barbara Zoo and MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation to investigate the developmental trajectory of reasoning about social categorization and social relationships (e.g., friendship).