February 21, 2018 - For this project, the lab will use machine learning to predict empathy for others’ stories. Every day billions of internet users read about other people’s stories on social media sites and news outlets. What features of these personal narratives make readers empathize with the storyteller? And does this shared emotion cause stories to go viral? Experimental studies in psychology have identified several factors that increase empathy, but researchers have yet to integrate these ideas into a comprehensive model that can predict empathy in real-world settings. In the proposed research, participants will read stories about others’ lives, rate how much empathy they feel, and assess different psychological features of the story (e.g., how extraordinary is the event?). The text of each story will also be mined to extract semantic features (e.g., emotional words). Using a machine learning algorithm, we will determine which psychological and linguistic features predict (i) readers' empathy and (ii) how frequently a story is shared and liked on websites (e.g., Upworthy). The results of these analyses can then be used to help people communicate more effectively and create content that others care about. 


Which traits make individuals popular or lead others to turn to them in times of stress?  Our new research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examines these questions by observing newly formed social networks in first-year college dormitories. We measured dorm members’ traits (e.g., their empathy) as well as their position in their dorm’s social networks. Via network analysis, we corroborate insights from psychological research: people who exude positive emotions are sought out by others for fun and excitement, whereas empathic individuals are sought out for trust and support. These findings show that individuals' personalities relate to their network positions and to the different roles that they play in supporting their communities. 



August 10, 2017: Ian Kwok, Tim Carsel, & Merigold Vitousek join the lab

Lab awarded Army Research Office Grant


August 1, 2017:  The lab receives an Army Research Office Grant on brain predictors of social network structure and function, in collaboration with Jamil Zaki.

Quinasia Douglas WINS Undergraduate Research Initiative Award

April 27, 2017: Congratulations to Quinasia Douglas for winning the College of Liberal Arts Undergraduate Research Initiative Award!  This award will fund her research entitled: "Reactions to discrimination when it’s framed as in-group favoritism vs. out-group derogation."

Mowafak wins student Travel Award for NetSci Conference

March 28, 2017: Mowafak wins a Student Travel Award for the NetSci Conference at Indiana University. The conference fosters interdisciplinary communication and collaboration in network science research across computer and information sciences, physics, mathematics, statistics, the life sciences, neuroscience, environmental sciences, social sciences, finance and business, arts and design.

Social Affective Neuroscience Conference

March 18, 2017: Our team presents work on the neural prediction of social support hubs in emerging social networks

Invited Talk at Northwestern University


February 23, 2017: Sylvia discusses her research with the Clinical Area

Mowafak wins first prize in Yale DATAHACK


February 20, 2017: Congratulations to Mowafak Allaham and his team for
winning first prize in Yale's Datahack competition! The competition involved
solving data problems related to social network data.

Humza Khan WINS Nancy Hirschberg Memorial Grant

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February 17, 2017: Congratulations to Humza Khan for winning the Nancy Hirschberg Memorial Grant for Undergraduate Research! He was 1 of 3 undergraduate students to receive this award for excellent undergraduate research in the field of Psychology.

This award will fund his research entitled: "Mood and empathy: How mood induction procedures impact empathic responses."




January 27, 2017: Spring Party with lab members and friends

Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference


January 20-22, 2017: MowafakRucha, and Monica present posters. Sylvia presents talk on trait correlates of individuals' positions in social networks.

Undergraduate Research


December 6, 2016: Research assistants present all their fantastic work in the lab

Invited Talk at Loyola University

November 30, 2016: Sylvia visits the beautiful campus of Loyola University and discusses her research in the Social Area Research Series

Invited Talk at Princeton University


October 24, 2016: Sylvia presents new findings that relate trait characteristics, daily experiences, and neural responses to social network position

Welcome Graduate Students


July 13, 2016: Josh Wondra and Mowafak Allaham join the lab

Association for Psychological Science Convention


May 29, 2016: Rucha presents her poster on lay beliefs about perspective-taking

Social Affective Neuroscience Conference

April 30, 2016: Monica Kullar and Ryan Carlson present posters

NSF Conference on Network Science in Economics


April 23, 2016: Sylvia & Rucha present their work and chat with collaborators 

Empathy & Social Connection Lab Opens


April 5, 2016: Lab welcomes new research assistants & officially opens it's doors for data collection

First lab members arrivE

January 4, 2016: Sylvia arrives at UIC

February 8, 2016: Rucha Makati starts as lab manager