Joshua Cetron

I am a Ph.D. candidate working with Mina Cikara and Joshua Greene in the Department of Psychology at Harvard. In my research, I study the ways in which intergroup contexts shape knowledge representations and information processing. Using methods from cognitive neuroscience, multivariate statistics, and social psychology, I seek to characterize the neural and psychological mechanisms that support information acquisition and concept learning in laboratory, classroom, and social settings - processes that are critical to human engagement with the world.

I began my Ph.D. at Harvard with Mina Cikara in the Harvard Intergroup Neuroscience Laboratory in the fall of 2018, and I currently work with both Mina Cikara and Joshua Greene. In my Ph.D. work, I am applying the multivariate analytical methods I have been developing to investigate topics in cognitive and social psychology and neuroscience that are especially salient in today’s increasingly polarized sociopolitical climate. These topics include the impact of intergroup biases on evidence-based learning and the representational confusability of facts and opinions. Additionally, I continue to develop multivariate statistical methods with Patrick Mair, including work on exploratory methods for characterizing informational facets in low-dimensional embeddings of complex representational spaces using multidimensional scaling and support vector machines. I am also the Teaching Fellow for two of Patrick Mair’s graduate-level statistics courses.

Prior to beginning my Ph.D. at Harvard, I received my B.A. in Neuroscience from Dartmouth College in 2016, with minors in Education and Spanish. As an undergraduate at Dartmouth and for two years afterwards as a full time research assistant, I worked in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Learning Laboratory with David Kraemer in the Departments of Education and Psychological and Brain Sciences. In my work at Dartmouth, I used a combination of neuroimaging, behavioral, and classroom-based research to explore the multivariate neural representations associated with concept learning in STEM domains. I have been developing analytical methods to characterize the ways in which the brain supports the knowledge that students acquire in the classroom. This work has resulted in my ongoing collaborations with David Kraemer, as well as collaborations with Adam Green at the Georgetown Laboratory for Relational Cognition (Georgetown University).

When I’m not doing science, I’m often making music, and occasionally I build guitars! Recently, I have been studying Indian classical percussion by learning to play the tabla, following in the tradition of my grandfather, Gaurang Yodh, who was a cosmic ray physicist and a sitar player.