Principal Investigator and Director


Janet N. Ahn, Ph.D.

Dr. Janet N. Ahn is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at William Paterson University and the Director of M+I Lab. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Barnard College, Columbia University and completed her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from New York University. Her research investigates human goal pursuit and motivation. She has examined how people’s goal pursuit is affected by what they infer about others’ goals (via projection) and what they believe about others based on their attributes (via transference and stereotyping). More recently she has investigated interventions to increase high school students’ motivation and persistence in STEM fields as well as developing innovative technological tools to increase student retention in college. Her work has been featured in various media outlets such as Women’s Health Magazine, NPR, American Educator, the Business Insider, CBS, and USA Today. She is also a researcher for the Neuro Leadership Institute

See Curriculum Vitae.



Affiliated Students

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Charles Faulkner III

is a senior Psychology student of William Paterson University with a minor in Political Science. He is also a member of the University’s Honors Clinical and Neuropsychological track. Supervised by Dr. Janet Ahn and in collaboration with Dr. Jay Foley (Chemistry), Charles is working on a project which focuses on increasing persistence and motivation in upper-level physical chemistry courses and overall STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) courses.

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Catherine Esguerra
is a senior nursing student of William Paterson University with a minor in Psychology. She is a member of the University's Honors College in the Independent Track. Under the guidance of Dr. Janet Ahn, Catherine is currently working on her honors thesis project, "The Virtual Echo Chamber: The Effect of Social Media Usage on Political Polarization," which studies the effect of increased social media use on the political attitudes of university students.


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Danfei Hu

is a first-year doctoral student in Social Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. She is broadly interested in the cognitive and motivational components of emotional processing and emotion regulation. With Dr. Janet Ahn, Danfei explores the effects of role model exposure on reducing stereotype threats among minorities groups in STEM fields from an intersectionality perspective. Additionally, Dr. Ahn and Danfei had examined how people’s lay impressions of scientists can be utilized to reframe scientists as role models that enhance motivation and performance in STEM (Hu, Ahn, Vega, & Lin-Siegler, under review).

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Marianna Lamnina

Marianna Lamnina is a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University studying Cognitive Science in Education, with a concentration in intelligent technologies. She is also a Ben and Grace Woods fellow at Columbia's Institute for Learning Technologies. Marianna's research focuses on how cognition and motivation interact to increase learning and transfer. Specifically, her most recent work focuses on uncovering teaching techniques that increase student curiosity and therefore, facilitate mastery and transfer of science content. Additionally, Marianna collaborates with Dr. Janet Ahn to design and research methods to increase students' psychological closeness to scientist role models, thus, increasing their growth mindsets and persistence in science.

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Melissa Vega
is currently the lab manager for the Motivation and Cognition Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Gender Studies from Northwestern University and intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Psychology. She is interested in exploring the ways the gender and racial imbalances in STEM settings are created and perpetuated. She has collaborated with Dr. Janet Ahn on a research project that examines how the intersectional identity of a Black female STEM role model matters in influencing Black women’s motivation in STEM. This work contributes to efforts to increase Black women’s motivation in higher education and was selected for presentation at the 19th Annual Convention for the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association.