Motivation & Goal Pursuit Lab

M&G Cornell 2

In the Motivation & Goal Pursuit Lab, we integrate principles from social cognition, group dynamics, and attitudes and persuasion to conduct studies to advance our understanding of motivation and goal pursuit processes. We take a situated cognition approach to study how the interplay between social contexts and identity influence the meaning people make of their experiences, and the downstream consequences of those processes for motivation and goal pursuit. Our broader goal in this endeavor is to understand processes that contribute to some of society’s most pressing challenges, including education and health disparities, intergroup relations, savings, and sustainability, so that we might develop interventions to address them.

The process model that is currently driving much of our research is illustrated below. We will continuously update it as we conduct more studies.


Adapted from:

Lewis & Oyserman, 2016, Behavioral Science & Policy

Oyserman & Lewis, 2017, Social Issues and Policy Review

Current Lab Members


Christopher Monteiro is a second year PhD student in Social Psychology at Cornell University. His research investigates the relationships between ideology and cognition, and lower-level cognitive processes, such as memory and perception. His work in the Motivation and Goal Pursuit Lab focuses on the ways in which identity influences social perception. He and Neil are currently working on projects investigating how perceptions of someone’s work are affected by their gender and race, and how people form different social class backgrounds think about and are affected by surveillance in their daily lives.

Casey O'Donnell

S. Casey O’Donnell is a second year PhD student in Social Psychology at the University of Southern California working primarily with Daphna Oyserman, but also with Neil (remotely via Skype). He is broadly interested in how macro-structural factors (e.g., poverty and stigmatized racial-ethnic group membership) shape individuals’ identities and mindsets, and the consequences for their motivation. His work with Neil specifically focuses on using tools from network science to develop and implement interventions to reduce disparities in education and health outcomes. You can read more about Casey on his personal webpage.

Lucus Tse

Lucus Tse is a junior at Cornell majoring in Biometry and Statistics and minoring in Policy Analysis & Management, and Business. His research interests are at the intersection of statistics, social policy, and communication, particularly as they relate to topics such as health disparities and savings. Outside of the lab, Lucus is a social media ambassador for the Cornell Admissions Office, and a sector analyst for the Financial Management Group of Cornell. In his free time, he enjoys drawing and painting.

Graduate Research Opportunities

The lab recently moved to Cornell University. If you are or will be a graduate student at Cornell and are interested in working together, I encourage you to email me at

I will also be recruiting new graduate students during the Fall 2017 application cycle (to begin graduate studies in Fall 2018). Information for prospective students is outlined in the linked letter below.

Information for Prospective Graduate Students

Undergraduate Research Opportunities

If you are a Cornell undergraduate who is interested in the work described on the research page, new projects in that spirit will begin at Cornell in Fall 2017. If you are interested in getting involved, I encourage you to email me at

Undergraduates usually get involved by serving as research assistants for course credits. They assist in the creation of experimental situations, run human participants through study protocol, and (if interested) may learn how to analyze data.

Resources for Current Research Assistants

Diversity in Research

I recognize that our society is increasingly diverse. As a result, I am committed to recruiting, and educating students to work and function in an increasingly diverse society. My commitment to enhancing diversity is facilitated by the following practices:

(1) Promoting an inclusive environment where all individuals are supported and integrated in the lab.

(2) Building and preserving a welcoming climate for my students.

(3) Engaging in open and honest academic discussions of diversity issues.

(4) Conducting research on diversity related issues.

(5) Maintaining open communication about my students’ professional goals and how we can advance them through our work in the lab.


Cristina Aelenei, Paris Descartes University, France

Joseph Bayer, The Ohio State University, USA

Jesse Chandler, Mathematica Policy Research, USA

Sonya Dal Cin, University of Michigan, USA

Veronica Derricks, University of Michigan, USA

Allison Earl, University of Michigan, USA

Phoebe Ellsworth, University of Michigan, USA

Michael Hall, University of Michigan, USA

Vincent Hutchings, University of Michigan, USA

Hakeem Jefferson, University of Michigan, USA

Daniel Kougias, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Lorelle Meadows, Michigan Technological University, USA

Nicholas Michalak, University of Michigan, USA

Daphna Oyserman, University of Southern California, USA

Denise Sekaquaptewa, University of Michigan, USA

Walter Sowden, Walter Reed Army Institute for Research, USA

Joshua Wondra, Facebook, USA

Nicole Yadon, University of Michigan, USA

J. Frank Yates, University of Michigan, USA

Lab Alumni

Jennifer Allen (University of Michigan, B.A. 2016, now MSW Student @ Michigan State University)

Saarah Anjum (University of Michigan, B.A. 2015, now Product Specialist @ SchoolCity Inc)

Wendy Cortes (University of Michigan, B.A. 2015, now Law Clerk @ Family Law Project)

Rachel Cultice (University of Michigan, B.A. 2017, now PhD Student @ Rutgers University)

Monica Ellis (University of Michigan, B.A. 2016, now Medical Student @ Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine)

Ryan Foley (University of Michigan, B.A. 2015, now Lab Manager @ University of Michigan)

Nora Greenstein (University of Michigan, B.A. 2015, now Program Manager @ USC Hillel Foundation)

Alex Grombala (University of Michigan, B.A. 2016, now Account Management Associate @ IT Practice)

Sara Helmer (University of Michigan, B.A. 2014, now MSW Student @ University of Michigan)

Mariam Khan (University of Michigan, B.A. 2015, Health Management & Policy Student @ University of Michigan School of Public Health)

Andrew Khouri (University of Michigan, B.A. 2017, now @ Victory Tax Solutions)

Elena Khutoretsky (University of Michigan, B.A. 2015, now Scala Development Specialist @ Huxley Banking & Financial Services)

Celina Romano (University of Michigan, B.A. 2016, now PhD Student @ UC-Berkeley)

Alaina Stevenson (University of Michigan, B.A., 2017, now Business Analyst @

Elizabeth Stewart (University of Michigan, B.A. 2016, now MSW Student @ University of Chicago)