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.
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

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.
Yoona Kang
 Yoona is a postdoctoral researcher at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her 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, and 2) designing interventions 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.
Bruce Doré
Bruce is interested in the regulation of positive emotion in health and psychopathology. He received his B.Sc. from the University of Guelph, and his M.A. in Psychology at Columbia University under the support of an NSERC graduate fellowship. In his research, he uses behavioral, neuroimaging, and large-scale observational methods to ask questions about the motivational, cognitive, and brain processes that determine how we respond to and recover from emotional events. Current projects investigate the cognitive and brain processes that underlie our ability to, ‘look on the bright side,’ in response to negative life experiences, the motivational factors that influence when and how we choose to regulate our emotions, and how these abilities and motivations change from young to older adulthood.
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.

Research Staff

Nick Wasylyshyn
 Nick is a post-masters researcher contracting for the Army Research Lab. He received his masters in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 and has joined the Falk lab to extend his expertise in machine learning to the field of neuroscience. He specializes in predicting behavior change from fMRI data.

Graduate 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.

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 Scholz is a doctoral candidate in the Communication Neuroscience Laboratory at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her work focuses on innovative, mixed-methodology studies which combine neuroscientific methods like fMRI and social science techniques such as observational geolocation tracking, field experimentation, and survey methods to solve problems at the intersection of health communication, public health, interpersonal communication, and social neuroscience. Substantively, her interests lie in the complex interplay of interpersonal interactions, social cognition, and mediated health campaigning efforts like anti-smoking advertising. Current projects focus on questions such as: How do interpersonal communication and social relationships influence the effectiveness of population-level health messaging and how can we design messages that optimize these social processes?; What role is played by the communicative process between information sharers and their receivers in the development of population-level message effects?; What is the effect of repeated, real-world exposure to smoking cues on smoker’s cigarette craving and neural cue reactivity? 

Elisa Baek
Elisa Baek is a 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.

Elissa Kranzler
Elissa Kranzler is a doctoral candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication. Broadly, she is interested in the relationship between media exposure and health-related behaviors in youth and young adult populations. Specifically, she has been studying the relationship between exposure to mass media anti-smoking campaigns and smoking cognitions and behaviors in a nationally representative sample of adolescents. Elissa received her BS in Music Education from New York University and M.S.Ed. in Learning Technologies in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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.

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

  • Alison Elliott
  • Susan Hao
  • Lizette Grajales
  • Darlina Liu
  • Taylor McCorkcle


  • 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.
  • Minji Kim: Minji is a post-doc at the University of California, San Francisco.
  • Joe Bayer: Joe is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University.
  • Ralf Schmaezle: Ralf is an assistant professor at Michigan State University.
Past Research Assistants
  • Susan Zhang
  • Cristine Oh
  • Kinari Shah
  • Becky Lau
  • Alison Sagon
  • Gabrielle Cheng
  • Larisa Svintsitski
  • Caroline Meuser
  • Jackie Cho
  • Lauren Wilson
  • Megan Black
  • Alexander Riccio
  • Julia Shteyngardt


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