Welcome to the Conversation Lab page!

In our lab, we are currently working on various projects related to cognitive processes of language and conversation. To read more about our published studies, click here.

If you are interested in becoming a graduate student in the lab, please click here.

If you are interested in undergraduate research experience positions in the lab, click here and fill out the application form. Opportunities for independent research projects are also available if you have worked in my lab for at least 2 consecutive semesters, and you approach me well in advance.


Bethany Gardner (left) and Evgeniia Diachek (right) at CUNY 2019 in Boulder, CO.

Alison Trude running an eye-tracking study

 Rachel Ryskin and Zhenghan Qi at CUNY 2017


Meet Our Lab Members:

Dr. Sarah Brown-Schmidt (director)

In my professional life, I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology & Human Development at Vanderbilt University. My research focuses on the mechanisms by which people produce and understand utterances during the most basic form of language use: interactive conversation. I am currently pursuing three questions in related lines of research: Common ground and perspective taking, memory and language, and message formulation.  For more information on my research content, visit my Professional Page.


Jordan Zimmerman (Lab manager)

I graduated from Vanderbilt in 2018, with a BS in Cognitive Science and Educational Studies. I am pursuing Clinical Psychology, and am applying to PhD programs this fall. I have been working in the Conversation lab for almost 3 years.

My research interests include cognitive and sociocultual factors of various psychological disorders, more specifically anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders. I am specifically interested in how everyday interactions and digital technologies affect the cognitive processes underlying psychopathology.


 Bethany Gardner (current grad student; also on twitter)

I'm a second-year PhD student in Psychological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, working with Sarah Brown-Schmidt. I graduated from the University of Rochester in 2018 with a B.S. in Brain & Cognitive Sciences, working with Chigusa Kurumada in the Kinder Lab.

I'm interested in how people understand others’ intentions at the levels of real-time spoken language processing, written communication, and later memory for conversations and speakers.


Evgeniia Diachek (current grad student)

I'm a second-year Ph.D. student in Psychological Sciences (Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience concentration) at Vanderbilt University, working with Sarah Brown-Schmidt. I graduated from Moscow State Pedagogical University with a B.A. in Linguistics in 2015. After graduation, I was working under the mentorship of Evelina Fedorenko at MIT. 
My research interests include cognitive and neural architectures of the language system, effect of general cognitive control mechanisms on language production and comprehension, interaction between lexical-semantics and semantic memory.


Danyi Chen (current undergrad Honors student)

I'm currently a rising Junior (graduating in 2021), and my majors are Cognitive Studies and Second Language Studies.

My research interest mostly focuses on language use and perspective taking in interpersonal communication.





Jasmine Aggarwal (current undergrad Honors student)

Jasmine is a third year undergraduate psychology major in the School of Arts and Sciences at Vanderbilt University. After college, she hopes to pursue her PhD in psychology and ultimately become a therapist. Currently, she does psycholinguistics research, specifically focusing on how a person’s mood influences conversation recall.




Shirley Roitberg (former student; check out this video of Shirley talking about her work).

Nicole Craycraft (MA, 2018)

Rachel Ryskin (Ph.D. 2016, now a postdoc at MIT)

Si On Yoon (Ph.D. 2016, Assistant Professor [starting Fall 2019], University of Iowa)

Kate Sanders (MA, 2014)

Alison Trude (Ph.D. 2013, now at Amazon)



MATLAB code for running and analyzing experiments:
Most of our experiments are run using MATLAB along with the Psychophysics Toolbox (PTB-3), Brainard, 1997; Pelli, 1997. PTB-3 has what used to be known as the Eyelink toolbox built-in; this allows us to send commands to our eye-tracker from within MATLAB. I have designed some demo code that (1) runs a visual-world eye-tracking experiment, and (2) analyzes the data in Matlab.  To get started, download the zip-file here, and follow the instructions in the README file. This demo is meant to provide some basic ideas about how to get started programming in Matlab, and will most certainly have to be edited to meet your needs (to get rid of bugs, improve efficiency, etc.). I welcome any comments or feedback you have. I make no guarantees about the accuracy of the code, and guarantee there’s probably a better way to program the experiments than we’ve done here. 

We use EyeLink 1000 eye-trackers to monitor the eye movements of participants as they engage in dialog tasks. Our research focuses on the mechanisms that support language processing in everyday conversation. For a description of my research interests, please click on the research link.


Contact me through email.