I am interested in how people understand the emotions and other mental states of those around them.
In my work, I take an interdisciplinary approach grounded in cognitive science and affective science, along with tools from computer science (machine learning; natural language processing; social network analyses) and behavioral economics (economic games and analyses). I am also interested in applications of my research, be it in computer science/robotics (affective computing / robotics), or in potential clinical contexts.
Here are a few projects that I am currently working on:
When we see someone miss a bus, receive a present, or walk with a skip in their step, we have no difficulty inferring their emotions, their thoughts, and even what they might do next. The ability to effortlessly perform such reasoning, Affective Cognition (reasoning about affect), is crucial to our everyday lives.
Underpinning affective cognition is a set of rich knowledge about emotions, encapsulated in laypeople's intuitive theories of emotion. That is, in people's minds, what are emotions? What causes emotions? What do emotions cause people to do? See here for a more detailed writeup.
I approach these questions from a variety of different approaches:
Ong, Zaki, & Goodman, Cognition, 2015
Ong, Goodman, & Zaki, Emotion, 2017
Ong, Doctoral Dissertation, 2017
When people reason about the emotions of those around them, how accurate are these inferences? In these set of projects, we am interested in how accurate are people in evaluating the emotions of those around them.
My collaborators and I investigate empathic accuracy using challenging, naturalistic contexts. In addition to computational modeling, we also study empathic accuracy (i) with neuroscientific approaches, (ii) across age-groups and cultures, and (iii) in populations with mood disorders.
Devlin, Zaki, Ong, & Gruber, Cognitive Therapy and Research, 2016
I use social network analyses to look at how emotions, empathy, and social support propagate within social networks.
Morelli, Ong, Makati, Jackson, & Zaki, PNAS, 2017
I'm interested in what factors motivate people to be nice to others.
Ong, Zaki, & Gruber, J. Abnorm. Psych., 2017
Nook, Ong, Morelli, Mitchell, & Zaki, PSPB, 2016
Ong, undergraduate honors thesis, 2011
In the past, prior to my starting graduate school, in roughly reverse chronological order, I have done research in behavioral economics, vision, condensed matter physics, optics, and material science. I've written up some of my previous, completed projects in optics and physics, below.
I developed a method of analyzing anisotropy in speckled images, by analyzing the power spectral distribution in a polar-coordinate representation.
[with Sanjeev Solanki, Xinan Liang, Xuewu Xu]
We investigated how applying an oscillatory shear flow affects the Brownian motion of collodial dimer particles (based on the geometry of the dimer particle).
[with Brian Leahy, Xiang Cheng, Itai Cohen]
We examined how the structure of a collodial crystal (having symmetric dimers in a crystal of spheres) affects the dislocation dynamics of the crystal.
[with Sharon Gerbode, Itai Cohen, and others]