Dr. Sarah Gaither, Nicolas J. and Theresa M. Leonardy Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience


Dr. Sarah Gaither is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience and a faculty affiliate at the Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University. Prior to Duke, she was a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar in the Psychology Department and Fellow at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago after earning her Ph.D. and M.S. in Social Psychology from Tufts University and her B.A. in Social Welfare from U.C Berkeley.

Her research focuses broadly on how a person’s social identities and experiences across the lifespan motivate their social perceptions and behaviors in diverse settings. More specifically, she studies how contact with diverse others shapes social interactions, how having multiple racial or multiple social identities affects different types of social behavior and categorizations of others, and what contexts shape the development of racial perceptions and biases from childhood through adulthood. Growing up as a biracial Black/White woman is what has fueled her research path. CV

Post-Doctoral Scholars

 Esha Naidu, Post-Doctoral Scholar

Esha Naidu is a Postdoctoral Associate in the department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University. Esha earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Social-Personality Psychology at the University at Buffalo SUNY and her B.S. in Psychology from Arizona State University. Esha’s research interests broadly concern 1) how features the self (e.g. culture, identity, personality, religious beliefs etc.) influence feelings of belongingness in different social contexts and 2) how the social self can use a variety of strategies (e.g. technologically mediated relationships, parasocial relationships, anthropomorphism, social surrogates, collective effervescence and close relationships) to fulfill the need to belong. In her free time, Esha likes trying out new recipes, working out while complaining about working out, and desperately trying to keep her house plants alive.


Graduate Students

Jaelyn Nixon, Graduate Student

Jaelyn Nixon is a doctoral student in the joint Public Policy and Psychology PhD program. She received her B.S. in Psychology from Tuskegee University and her M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Georgia Southern University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of race and social class. She is primarily concerned with the factors that contribute to prison, education, and health disparities. CV


Mercedes Muñoz, Graduate Student

Mercedes Muñoz is a doctoral student in Social Psychology in the Duke Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. Mercedes earned her B.A. in Psychology with Honors from Boston University and she is interested in using both a social and developmental approach to investigate how children and adults develop an understanding of racial categories. Specifically, racial self-identification in groups that have a more ambiguous and complex racial categorization process—such as Latinx individuals. Additionally, her research focuses on investigating whether different racial/ethnic groups within the U.S. differ in their use of norm-enforcing language, such as generics. Most importantly, Mercedes aims for the means and the end of her research to benefit and uplift Black, Latinx, and other marginalized communities. CV


Mohammad Wiswall, Graduate Student

Mohammad Wiswall is a doctoral student in social psychology at Duke University’s Psychology & Neuroscience department. Mohammad graduated Cum Laude from Rutgers University-New Brunswick with a B.A. in Cognitive Science with Honors. Furthermore, he graduated as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Paul Robeson Scholar, and Henry Rutgers Scholar. His research is interested in the interplay between contexts (e.g., culture) and person perceptions (e.g., stereotypes). Specifically, he is interested in how cues such skin tone variation skews stereotypes applied to Asian subgroups. Moreover, the role of racial ambiguity in perception and stereotyping. In parallel with research, Mohammad focuses on the mentorship of first generation, low-SES, and minority scholars. Thus, including these historically underrepresented scholars within the research process and academia. Outside of the lab, he enjoys finding new hiking trails in North Carolina, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, reading, and trying to take care of plants. CV


Kirby Lam, Graduate Student

Kirby Lam is a doctoral student in Social Psychology at the Duke Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Prior to Duke, Kirby graduated from Pomona College with a B.A. in Psychological Science with Distinction and a minor in Asian American Studies. His research investigates the sociocognitive and neurophysiological mechanisms in our interactions informed by our identities. Specifically, his work has focused on how race, gender, and culture shape our constructions and violations of social norms. Their future research will explore these intersectional processes to inform how discrimination, prejudice, and other social processes function.


Oretioluwasefunmi Agbelusi, Incoming Graduate Student
Tose Agbelusi is a doctoral student in Developmental Psychology in the Duke Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. Tose earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Tose’s research interests primarily focus on how socio-cultural factors contribute to children’s psychosocial development. In the same vein, she is interested in exploring the impacts of racism and the effects of culturally specific parenting patterns on protective factors, prosocial behavior, and the types of risk behavior that children from Black and other minority groups exhibit.

Lab Staff


Joy Knowles, Lab Manager (current)

Joy Knowles (she/her) the lab manager for the ID Lab. She graduated from Emory University and double majored in Psychology and African American Studies. She is passionate about the unique experiences of People of Color and is interested in working with individuals with intersectional marginalized identities. Joy cares deeply about cultural and identity development and plans on earning her PhD in psychology and working on initiatives to increase educational equity. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, reading, and dog training.

Hannah Garner, Lab Manager (incoming)

Bio coming soon!








Sydney Revell, CHILD Studies Recruitment Coordinator

Sydney is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) where she received her B.S. in Psychology and M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies. Her research interests are shaped by social and cultural contexts. Her interests include examining social processes that support positive developmental outcomes for Black youth. More specifically, she is interested in how youth understand and respond to social injustices that lead them to create social change. Sydney wants to expand her skills working with communities and finding opportunities to participate in community-engaged work, which she hopes to do as the recruitment coordinator. She enjoys staying active by practicing yoga and hiking.

Some current and past student memories!