Emily Falk
Phone: 215-573-1974
Office: 328 ASC
Emily Falk is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. Prof. Falk employs a variety of methods drawn from communication science, neuroscience and psychology. Her work traverses levels of analysis from individual behavior, to diffusion in group and population level media effects. In particular, Prof. Falk is interested in predicting behavior change following exposure to persuasive messages and in understanding what makes successful ideas spread (e.g. through social networks, through cultures). Prof. Falk is also interested in developing methods to predict the efficacy of persuasive communication at the population level. At present, much of her research focuses on health communication, including recent work exploring neural predictors of increased sunscreen use, neural predictors of smoking reduction, and linking neural responses to health messages to population level behavioral outcomes; other areas of interest include political communication, cross-cultural communication, and the spread of culture, social norms and sticky ideas. Prof. Falk's work has been funded by NCI, NICHD, NIDA/the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, ARL, DARPA and ONR. Prior to her doctoral work, Prof. Falk was a Fulbright Fellow in health policy, studying health communication in Canada. She received her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Brown University, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Research Scientists

Matt O'Donnell
Matt is a Research Scientist at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. His research background includes corpus linguistics, natural language processing and data mining with a focus on extracting linguistic patterns and networks from large textual databases (or corpora). He is interested in combining linguistic analyses of media language and persuasive discourse with behavioral and neuroscience approaches.

Visiting Scholar

Emile Bruneau
Dr. Emile Bruneau comes from a research scientist position at the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at MIT, and is currently a visiting scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication. Prior to his formal training in neuroscience, Emile worked, traveled and lived in a number of conflict regions: South Africa during the transition from Apartheid to Democracy, Sri Lanka during one of the largest Tamil Tiger strikes in that nation’s history, Ireland during “The Troubles”, Israel/Palestine around the Second Intifada. Emile is now working to bring the tools of science to bear on the problem of intergroup conflict by (1) building methods to better characterize the (often unconscious) cognitive biases that drive conflict using explicit, implicit and functional neuroimaging (fMRI) techniques, and (2) critically evaluating efforts aimed at transcending these biases.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Yoona Kang
Dr. Yoona Kang’s research investigates psychological and neural mechanisms that support the development and changes in social cognition, emotions, and health outcomes. Her main research interests are in 1) linking social cognitive and affective processing in the brain to health outcomes across various developmental stages, and 2) designing interventions/education programs that guide adaptive changes in social processing to promote emotional and physical wellbeing. Yoona’s work draws conceptual and methodological tools from Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Contemplative Science, and Health Communication. She examines converging evidence across a wide range of tools, including first person reports, implicit measures, behavioral outcomes, and neuroimaging results (fMRI, fNIRS, EEG). Yoona received her PhD in Psychology from Yale University and BA in Psychology from UCLA. During her doctoral program, she also worked with clinical neuroscientists and contemplative scientists at Brown University as a visiting scholar.

Nicole Cooper
Nicole is a postdoctoral researcher at the Annenberg School for Communication. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the Neuroscience Graduate Group at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. Nicole's research investigates the neural mechanisms of behavior change and decision making, and focuses particularly on the role of the medial prefrontal cortex.

Ralf Schmaelzle
Ralf is a postdoctoral researcher at the Annenberg School for Communication. His mission is to understand the neural mechanisms of health risk perception and effective health risk communication. To achieve that goal, he takes a radically interdisciplinary approach, integrating theories and methods from psychology, neuroscience, health, and communication science. This integration is particularly suited to reveal implicit and affective processes, which play a decisive yet poorly understood role in our health-related feelings and cognitions. Before joining the Communication Neuroscience Lab at Penn, Ralf worked at the University of Konstanz, Germany. There he began to combine affective neuroscience and health psychology to understand how we think and feel about health – our greatest wealth.

Penn Students

Chris Cascio
Chris Cascio is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He is broadly interested in communication neuroscience, which combines methods from communication studies and social neuroscience. His research focuses on neurocognitive mechanisms associated with persuasive health messages delivered through mass media in order to better understand subsequent behavior.

Kristin Shumaker
Kristin is a doctoral student in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She is interested in using neuroimaging methods, including fMRI and fNIRS, to examine the neural mechanisms of message propagation, social influence and narrative persuasion in health messaging and cultural participation.

Minji Kim
Minji is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her research interest focuses on message effect and persuasion. Topic-wise, many of her projects have dealt with issues in health communication. Minji’s interest extends to broad areas including social influence, social cognition, emotions in persuasion, narrative persuasion, as well as the impact of new media platforms and technology. Her current projects examine the realm of recommender systems and tailored communication, based on character-audience similarity and message features in anti-smoking campaigns. Prior to her arrival at Annenberg, Minji received an MA in Communications from Seoul National University. Participating as a member of CMCLab, her thesis examined the impact of online news layout on the audiences’ selective exposure. Also, she worked as an associate consultant at The Boston Consulting Group Seoul office.

Jiaying Liu
Jiaying is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her primary research interest lies at the intersection of health communication, message effects, and the information diffusion network. She is particularly excited about exploring the use of neuroscience methods to help strengthen and extend understanding of persuasive health message design that could promote successful behavior change. She is also interested in examining neural predictors that help explain why certain messages go viral while others do not.

Christin Scholz
Christin is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her interests lie in the combined application of neuroscientific methods like fMRI and traditional social science methods to problems at the intersection of health communication, public health and neuroscience. Specifically, she focuses on the impact of media usage patterns and social influence on subjective perceptions of health and subsequent outcomes in individual and public health domains.

Elisa Baek
Elisa Baek is a first year doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication. She is interested in the neural cognitive mechanisms involved in message propagation and social influence, especially in relation to the processing of news framing and its impact on information diffusion. She is also interested in the neural mechanisms of stereotypes and racism.

Rui Pei
Rui (pronounced “ray”) is a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania.Rui is interested in communication strategies that alter the health-related attitudes, opinions, and behaviors, especially areas such as adolescent decision-making, technology-based communications, social media and well-being. She hopes to combine neuroscience and psychology methodologies and investigate how social factors influence cognition and behavior in the field of health communication.

Prateekshit Pandey
Prateekshit Pandey will be joining the lab as doctoral student in Fall 2016. He is interested in working on understanding the effects of online social media on human social behavior. He has completed a Bachelor of Technology degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, New Delhi. During his undergrad years, he was actively involved in research areas of deep machine learning, biometrics and image processing.

Michigan Students

Joe Bayer
Joe is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. Joe looks at the social and cognitive ramifications of new and emerging media. What makes individuals text at the wheel when they know it is life threatening? One line of research focuses on social norms and habitual/compulsive behavior associated with mobile technology across different spheres (i.e., public, private). Joe is also interested in how ideas spread, perspective taking, and self-distancing.

Steve Tompson
Steve is a Ph.D. student in the Psychology Department at the University of Michigan. He is interested in using neuroimaging to understand the social cognitive processes that mediate sociocultural differences in self-appraisal and decision-making. He is also interested in extending this research to examine the contribution of self-appraisal processes to attitude change and behavior change.

Lab Manager

Elizabeth Beard
Liz is the lab manager and research coordinator for the CN Lab. She received her BA in Communication Studies and Psychology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2014, where she volunteered with Dr. Falk’s lab for about two years. Research Liz has completed in the past has looked at different personality measures and emotional sharing across different mediums. She is interested in learning more about the motivation behind behavior change, especially in regards to social groups and individual differences.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Nicolette Gregor
Nicolette is an undergraduate at the University of Michigan majoring in Neuroscience and Life Sciences Informatics. She is interested in the brain mechanisms and structures underlying human interaction and decision-making, as well as how to image and collect data about those structures.
  • Darlina Liu
  • Caroline Meuser
  • Jackie Cho
  • Lauren Wilson
  • Megan Black
  • Alexander Riccio
  • Julia Shteyngardt


  • Josh Carp: Josh is now a developer at the Center for Open Science
  • Frank Tinney: Frank is currently a medical student at Wayne State University
  • Agnes Jasinska: Agnes is now a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Bucknell University
  • JP Obley: JP is currently a senior UX engineer at DeepField
  • Lynda Lin: Lynda is currently a graduate student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Teresa Pegors: Teresa is an assistant professor at Azusa Pacific University.
  • Jason Coronel: Jason is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University.
Past Research Assistants
  • Susan Zhang
  • Cristine Oh
  • Kinari Shah
  • Becky Lau
  • Alison Sagon
  • Gabrielle Cheng
  • Larisa Svintsitski


Matthew Lieberman, Ph.D.
Lab Website

Elliot Berkman, Ph.D.
Lab Website

René Weber, Ph.D., M.D.
Lab Website

Sara Konrath, Ph.D.
Lab Website