Director |
Ezequiel Morsella

A theoretician and experimentalist in neuroscience, Ezequiel Morsella received his Ph.D. at Columbia University and carried out his postdoctoral training (2003 - 2007) at Yale University. Since his pre-college days, he has been focusing on the nature of the conscious (e.g., urges and voluntary action) and unconscious brain mechanisms in human action production, thanks in large part to stumbling across a pile of old books by Hebb and Hull. For his professional profile, visit http://morsella.socialpsychology.org; for more personal information, visit here.

In 2007, he was hired as a professor in neuroscience at San Francisco State University (where he is now Associate Prof.) and as an Assistant Adjunct Professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco. He is boardmember of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO; Buenos Aires) and Associate Director of the Center for Human Culture and Behavior at SFSU. In 2010, his research was recognized by the committee of the virtual Nobel prize in psychology/neuroscience Link. Click here to visit his neuroscience blog.

Regarding his training, while at Columbia, he was mentored by Robert Krauss (Morsella's primary advisor, with whom Morsella conducted much research on working memory and mental representation), and by the cognitive neuropsychologist Michele Miozzo, with whom Morsella studied about models of action/speech production; at Yale, he was mentored by John Bargh and the neuroscientist Jeremy Gray. As an undergraduate, he was mentored by Robert B. Tallarico at the University of Miami (B.A., 1996, Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude).

Today, he is the lead author of Oxford Handbook of Human Action. Funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, his research has appeared in journals such as Psychological Review, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Neurocase, Consciousness and Cognition, Experimental Brain Research, and Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. He has served as an editorial reviewer for many journals, including Science, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychological Review; Cognition, Emotion, and Journal of Experimental Psychology (General, HPP, LMC). As a professor he has applied for NSF, NIMH, and NIDA grants.


Collaborators | Adam Gazzaley, MD., Ph.D., Dept. of Neuroscience, UC San Francisco
Mark W. Geisler, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, San Francisco State U.
  John A. Bargh, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Yale University
  Stephen C. Krieger, MD., Dept. of Neurology, Mount Sinai Medical, NYC
  Jeremy R. Gray, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Michigan State University
  Carlos Montemayor, Ph.D., Dept. of Philosophy, San Francisco State U.
  T. Andrew Poehlman, Ph.D., Southern Methodist University
  Avi Ben-Zeev, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, San Francisco State U.
  Lawrence Williams, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder
  Howard Rosen, MD., Dept. of Neurology, UC San Francisco
  Hakwan Lau, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Columbia University
  Mariano Sigman, Ph.D., Dept. of Physics, U. of Buenos Aires.
  Michele Miozzo, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Cambridge University
  Robert M. Krauss, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Columbia University
Lab Guests | Guest Speakers/Discussants at the Lab (in alphabetical order)
Joaquin Anguera, Ozlem Ayduk, Roy Baumeister, Bruce Bridgeman, Daniel Cervone, Adam Gazzaley, Jeremy Gray, Gary Marcus, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, Michele Miozzo, Judy Pa, Andrew Poehlman, David Rosenbaum, Travis Seymour, Lisa Son, Benjamin Storm, Lawrence Williams, & Rex Wright. Here are some photos of the lab: The Space Photo1; Guests Photo1 Photo2 Photo3 Photo4 Photo5
Lab Members | Graduate and Undergraduate Students
Our lab manager, Benny P. Chen is a graduate student interested in the brain circuits associated with high-level forms of unconscious processing (e.g., unconscious decision making and intermodal processing). His research focuses on the establishment of 'action sets' and on unconscious intersensory conflicts. Before joining the lab as a graduate student, Benny obtained research experience working on intersensory experiments in Prof. Adam Gazzaley's lab at UCSF. Benny's goal is to one day obtain a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. To learn more about Benny, click here.
Allison Allen is a graduate student in the Philosophy Department interested in exploring the nature of consciousness and perception from both an empirical and theoretical point of view. Specifically, she is interested in the nature of the 'internal observer' (the conscious mind's eye) and in parsing out which processes are conscious versus which are unconscious, examining how mental representations "compete for consciousness." Recently, she has been working on the new, Reflexive Imagery Task.
Christina Merrick is a first year graduate student who was drawn to the field by a general interest in the perplexing and fascinating phenomenon of consciousness. More specifically, she is pursuing her interests by studying the subjective aspects of action sets, working memory, and imageless thought. Before working in Dr. Morsella’s lab, she worked as a research assistant in the Cognac Lab led by Professor Ivry at UC Berkeley, where she completed her BA in Psychology.  
Kevin Wilkins is currently an undergraduate at Boston College where he is studying Psychology and English. His research focuses on the role of consciousness in the suppression action plans, as well as in working memory. After completing his undergraduate degree, Kevin intends to pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience.
Sheila Pugh is a graduate student interested in cognitive neuroscience research, especially as it pertains to clinical populations. Currently, she is working on a collaborative project with the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory that explores resting EEG asymmetry, ERPs, and affective processing biases utilizing a variation of the Reflexive Imagery Task. Additionally, Sheila is an assistant clinical research coordinator for the BRIGHTEN Center’s Over-60-Program at UCSF.
Lara C. Krisst is interested in the neural dynamics that distinguish conscious and unconscious processing. Specifically, she is interested in how action production modulates entry into awareness. To investigate this question of how that which is inaccessible influences that which is consciously accessible, her current projects examine 1) introspective aspects of visual sensory memory (drawing on Sperling's paradigm) and 2) how automatizing a motor action affects temporal perception (drawing on Libet's paradigm). She expects to pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. To learn more about Lara, click here.
Hyein Cho is a graduate student who is interested in thought control paradigms and their possible application to the treatment of psychopathology. Specifically, she wants to investigate the role that consciousness plays in controlling intrusive thoughts and how this role, and cognitive control more generally, varies across different clinical populations. Her future goal in research is to investigate potential treatment paths for anxiety symptoms.
Sabrina Bhangal is an undergraduate research assistant interested in neuropsychology. In the lab, she has been helping on several projects, contributing to each stage of the research process. In addition, she is running her own project which involves a variant of the lab’s new, Reflexive Imagery Task. After obtaining her BA degree, Sabrina hopes to study neuropsychology in graduate school.
Kyle Merryman is an undergraduate research assistant interested in the nature of conscious processing, a topic which he is tackling by studying both theoretical and experimental approaches. In addition, he is using the study of drama to inform his investigations. Apart from helping his labmates collect, code, and analyze data, Kyle is learning about experimental design and is interested in the further development of the Reflexive Imagery Task. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, Kyle hopes to continue his scientific study of consciousness in graduate school.
Lab Alumni |
Former Lab Members Currently in PhD Programs
With a background in cognitive neuroscience, Jason Hubbard is interested in the neural underpinnings of complex behaviors arising from the prefrontal cortex, but also has varied interests in aspects of consciousness, information processing, and semantic representation. He focused on the effects of holding different kinds of information (e.g., action-related versus non-action-related) in working memory. In the fall of 2011, he began doctoral study in cognitive science at the University of Oregon. To learn more about his research, click here.
Travis Riddle is now a doctoral fellow at Columbia University. Using standard laboratory paradigms involving automaticity, Travis has investigated the interplay between subjective urges and cognitive conflict (e.g., response interference), with the goal of illluminating the role that this interaction has on authorship processing (how people attribute their own actions, and cognitive processes, to the 'self'). He has also investigated the role of proprioceptive feedback in authorship processing. Travis also contributes as a popular science writer to the prestigious Scientific American magazine.
A senior lab member, Christine Godwin is a graduate student interested in spontaneous thought processes and both the underlying neural correlates of spontaneous thoughts (e.g., default mode network) as well as participants' lay intuitions regarding the causes of their thoughts. By using EEG measures, she hopes to pinpoint the neural dynamics of spontaneous thoughts and examine the neural differences between thoughts elicited by external stimuli and internal mental processes. In the fall of 2013, she commenced her doctoral studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology. To learn more about Christine, click here.
Tiffany K. Jantz is interested in the component processes (e.g., attention, awareness, imagery, and action-related processes) of visuospatial working memory. She has already conducted over 5 challenging experiments. Tiffany is also interested in distributed cognition, subliminal processing, and ways by which to reduce cognitive load. Tiffany plans to pursue a doctoral degree researching topics falling between cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology. In the fall of 2013, she began her doctoral studies at University of Michigan. For more information about Tiffany, click here.
Maggie Lynn is interested in conscious processes and mental representation. Her studies focused on the role of propioceptive feedback in the sense of agency, the dynamics of motivation and the urge to quit, the perceptual and motor components of subvocalization, and distinguishing forms of cortical binding. In the fall of 2010, she began a doctoral fellow at Ghent University in Belgium, working with Prof. Marcel Brass. Click here to learn more about her research.
The first lab member, Christopher C. Berger investigated people's lay intuitions regarding how the body and mind/brain function, automatic imitation (e.g., whether tip-of-the-tongue states are contagious), and the relationships among self-control (e.g., action suppression), automaticity, and conscious processing (e.g., whether new action plans weaken the urge strength of older plans). He is doing his doctoral studies at the the Brain, Body, and Self Lab at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, working with Prof. Henrik Ehrsson. To learn more about his research, click here.
How does the conscious perception pathway interact with what has been construed as the unconscious action pathway(s)? While at the lab, Pareezad Zarolia addressed this fundamental question in an experiment that examined the link between mental simulation and emotional processing. She successfully concluded a summer fellowship to conduct cognitive research at Stanford University. In the fall of 2010, she began a doctoral fellowship at the University of Denver. For more information about Pareezad, click here.
Maria Robinson earned her M.A. in social psychology at the University of Chicago. Her research at the lab concerns the liaisons among consciousness, self-regulation, and the subjective sense of effort. In addition, Maria is the lab's manuscript coordinator. Soon she will apply to PhD programs to pursue her interests in social cognition. In the fall of 2013, she began her doctoral studies at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
As undergraduate and NIMH COR scholar also working in Dr. Geisler’s psychophysiology laboratory, Jason Samaha’s research focused on the brain networks supporting conscious processes such as mental imagery and working memory.  To this end, he conducted experiments using TMS and ERP/EEG coherence to investigate the neural correlates of inherently conscious processes such as intentionally foregrounding a specific representation (refreshing). In the fall of 2013, he began his doctoral fellowship at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
For her honors thesis, Meredith Lanska, investigated the liaison between conscious, episodic memory and action. Her experiments combined the tools of action and memory research. One of her experiments included a new, parametric technique for associating the contents of episodic memory. In the fall of 2010, she began a doctoral fellowship at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Click here to learn more about Meredith.
As an MA student, Tara C. Dennehy was interested in the threshold between conscious and non-conscious perceptual processing and how action may influence entry into attentional awareness. Tara conducted a series of studies examining how top-down action-related mechanisms influence what enters attentional awareness when visual targets are presented subliminally. In the fall of 2011, she began doctoral study in social cognition at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. To learn more about her research, click here.
While manager of Mark Geisler's Cognitive Psychophysiology Lab, Nick Bedo was instrumental in carrying out the ERP’s and EEG coherence experiments by Geisler and Morsella regarding the different kinds of 'binding' in the brain. In addition, he used visual illusions (e.g., Kanisza figures) to understand top-down processing. In the fall of 2010, he began doctoral training with Prof. Lawrence Ward at the University of British Columbia, Canada.
Tanaz Molapour is interested in the unconscious cognitive dynamics that can give rise to preferences and affective responses toward situations and incidental stimuli. For one of her projects, she used backward masking to present visual objects subliminally. Tanaz's basic research on how, through processing dynamics, we come to like or dislike neutral (non-biologically-significant) stimuli has broad implications. She is continuing her graduate studies working with Profs. Olsson and Öhman at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Click here to learn more about her research.
Shanna Cooper's interests are focused at the intersection of cognitive and emotional processing in healthy individuals and those with mental health diagnoses (i.e., schizophrenia). In the lab, she worked on a number of studies involving attentional awareness and working memory. In the fall of 2012, Shanna commenced doctoral study at Temple University. Click here to learn more about Shanna.
A full-time member of Chuck Tate's Social Perception, Attitudes, and Mental SimuIation Lab, Jessica Tomory is interested in conscious and unconscious processes, interference from incentivized stimuli, and social cognition. Before obtaining her BA, Jessica was an honors student in SFSU's honors program. When she had free time from the responsibilities of her primary lab, she somehow found time to help out with research in our lab. In the fall of 2012, she began a doctoral study at Claremont Graduate University.