James W. Pennebaker
James W. Pennebaker is the Regents Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts and Executive Director of Project 2021. He and his students are exploring natural language use, group dynamics, and personality in educational and other real world settings. His earlier work on expressive writing found that physical health and work performance can improve by simple writing and/or talking exercises. His cross-disciplinary research is related to linguistics, clinical and cognitive psychology, communications, medicine, and computer science. His current position with Project 2021 involves rethinking undergraduate education at the University of Texas. Author or editor of 9 books and over 250 articles, Pennebaker has received numerous awards and honors.
Kate G. Blackburn
Kate is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research explores the perceptual and behavioral processes of language use reflected in people’s stories and social interactions online. Her recent research has examined language use in breakup stories, food themes communicated within online communities, relational behaviors on social networking sites, and deceptive health messages related to absenteeism. This research appears in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, and Health Communication.
Kayla N. Jordan
Kayla Jordan is a 3rd year Ph.D. student. She completed a Masters of Science in Experimental Psychology at Missouri State University before moving to UT-Austin. Her interests include political language, online search behavior, big data, moral psychology, and research methodology. She contributes to the Wordwatchers blog with has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
Mohini is currently a Ph.D. student in Social and Personality Psychology. She is interested in the ways individual behaviors interact to form differing group dynamics and enjoys exploring this concept in video gaming communities through the lens of language and big data analysis. Mohini received her B.A. in Computer Science and Cognitive Science and was previously a software engineer in Seattle, WA.
In her spare time, you can find her exploring the intricacies and beauty of individual differences through photography and portraiture, working or socializing at coffee shops, playing video games, or hanging out with her lovely cat, Mara.
Ashwini Ashokkumar is currently a PhD student of Social Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin. She completed a master’s in liberal studies with a specialization in experimental psychology at Ashoka University, India. She is interested in exploring the psychological processes that drive behaviors of people who are strongly connected to (i.e., those whose identities are “fused” with) a group. She is specifically interested in the negative consequences of identity fusion, including polarization, conflict, and violence. Her research also explores gender violence that stems from notions of honor. In pursuing these questions, she tries to complement traditional methods with relatively novel methods such as analyzing language that people use in natural settings.
Sarah Seraj is currently a Ph.D. student in the Pennebaker Language Lab and hails from Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her primary background is in engineering, with a Master’s in Environmental Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Her interests include in-group bias, deception and close relationships.
Miti Shah is a 3rd year PhD student in the Pennebaker Language Lab at UT Austin. She is an international student from India, where she completed her Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in Clinical Psychology before moving to the US to pursue a career in Social Psychology. Her research interests broadly include persuasion, prosocial behavior, collective action and group dynamics. Some of her current projects are focused on understanding what motivates people to engage in collective action for issues such as climate change, women’s rights, etc. Most of her research involves looking at people’s use of language on social media (such as Reddit) to understand the underlying psychological mechanisms in people’s willingness to engage in collective action.
Besides research, Miti loves to cook and explore new recipes. She organizes programs and events for international graduate students at UT and also volunteers at an animal shelter in Austin.
Previous Lab Members
Ryan L. Boyd
Ryan L. Boyd was a graduate, then postdoctoral, researcher in the Pennebaker Language Lab. Originally from Indiana, Ryan pursued psychology as his “backup” interest after repeated rejection from wizardry schools. He is currently an assistant professor at Lancaster University in the UK (he’s still pursuing wizardry as an option and wanted to get closer to the source).
L-R: Miti Shah, Sarah Seraj, Kayla Jordan, Jamie Pennebaker, Ryan Boyd, Kate Blackburn, Mohini Tellakat, Ashwini Ashokkumar