shari liu_


shariliu_2019_crop gscholar COS-OSF github


Every day, we look out into the world and see scenes of people in motion, and make sense of these scenes by appealing to their underlying causes. We appreciate the mental lives of others, including their desires, percepts, and beliefs, and we also see these actors as solid bodies, who can exert forces and navigate themselves through a physical world. How do our minds get so much meaning from this input, and how we grow to this knowledge over development?

My work aims to get at these questions through behavioral studies of human infants, and is also deeply informed by tools and theories from computational cognitive science. My research is or has been funded by the Center for Brains, Minds and Machines, DARPA, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and the NIH National Research Service Award Fellowship.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Saxelab at MIT. Prior to this, I was a graduate student at the Lab For Developmental Studies at Harvard. During my postdoc, I plan to use neuroimaging to study how the infant mind and brain support their ability to learn and reason across tasks and domains, to develop methods for large scale online testing of infant behavior, and to learn meta-analytic techniques.

I am committed to making science more open (transparent, reproducible, and inclusive). Part of this commitment is providing high-quality mentorship to students from all backgrounds. As a first-generation immigrant to the US who stumbled into science, I am aware that without supportive mentors, and a great deal of personal development, I would have stumbled out.

Here's a recent CV. Here are blog posts I've written (re: online testing, understanding in science, and hopefully more soon!). 

Thanks to Kris Brewer for the above photo, and to Natalia Vélez for the illustration!



My research addresses questions like:


These electronic articles are posted for individual, non-commercial use to ensure timely dissemination of scholarly work. They are intended for teaching and training purposes only. Downloading a document should be considered a request by you for a single copy. Articles may not be reposted or disseminated without permission by the copyright holder. Copyright holders retain all rights as indicated within each article. *undergraduate or research assistant advisee

Liu, S., Ullman, T. D., Tenenbaum, J. B., & Spelke, E. S. (under revision). Dangerous ground: Thirteen-month-old infants are sensitive to peril in other people’s actions. [pdf]

Gjata, N.*, Ullman, T. D., Spelke, E. S., & Liu, S. (2020). Look before you leap: Quantitative tradeoffs between peril and reward in action understanding. Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Liu, S., Brooks, N. B., & Spelke, E. S. (2019). Origins of the concepts cause, cost, and goal in prereaching infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(36), 17747-17752

Liu, S., Cushman, F. A., Gershman, S. J., Kool, W., & Spelke, E. S. (2019). Hard choices: Children’s understanding of the cost of action selection. Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Liu, S., McCoy, J. P., & Ullman, T. D. (2019). People's perception of others' risk preferences. Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Liu, S., Gonzalez, G.*, & Warneken, F. (2018). Worth the wait: Children trade off delay and reward in self- and other-benefiting decisions. Developmental Science, e12702. doi:10.1111/desc.12702 [pdf] [osf] [supplement]


Liu, S., Ullman, T. D., Tenenbaum, J. B., & Spelke, E. S. (2017). Ten-month-old infants infer the value of goals from the costs of actions. Science, 358(6366), 1038-1041. doi:10.1126/science.aag2132 [pdf] [osf] [supplement] [Research summary] [Press Coverage: Harvard Gazette, MIT News

Liu, S., Ullman, T. D., Tenenbaum, J. B., & Spelke, E. S. (2017). What's worth the effort: Ten-month-old infants infer the value of goals from the costs of actions. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. [pdf]

Liu, S., & Spelke, E. S. (2017). Six-month-old infants expect agents to minimize the cost of their actions. Cognition, 160, 35-42. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2016.12.007 [pdf] [osf] [supplement]

Parkinson, C., Liu, S., & Wheatley, T. (2014). A common cortical metric for spatial, temporal, and social distance. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(5), 1979-1987. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.2159-13.2014 [pdf]

Design by Kevin (levinkeo)