Three two-dimensional characters - a red circle, yellow triangle, and blue square, each with googly eyes.

The Look, Infer, Understand (LIU) Lab @ Johns Hopkins Universitry

Launching in July 2023! In the Liu Lab, we are interested in how our minds and brains reason about the physical and social world. We study the developmental and neural origins of these abilities.

Figure from Liu et al. (2017), Science. The figure describes the principles behind inverse planning over utilities, including (a) rational action selection over costs and rewards, (b) observing costly actions and inferring rewards, and then using those rewards to predict new actions. Each portion is accompanied by a cartoon drawing.

Origins in development

When we think about other people, we represent their actions as motivated by intentions and goals, as costly to execute, and as causing effects in the world. What are the representations and computations that support these intuitions, and how do they develop?

Brain pictures from an fMRI scan (left - a contrast map showing activations for psychological over physical content, in red and yellow, over two datasets; on the right, the reverse contrast in blue.

Origins in the brain

Understanding other people’s minds and actions depends on physical reasoning. What domain-specific and domain-general neural computations support our ability to reason about people’s actions, performed with a physical body in a physical world?

Recent Work


Using computer vision to accelerate developmental science

Erel et al. (in press, AMPPS)


Neural responses to surprising psychological and physical events

Liu et al. (in progress)

Lab News

Check back soon!