Xuan Zhao - Center for Decision Research | Chicago Booth

Xuan Zhao

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PhD, Social Psychology, Brown University
BS, Chu Kochen College, Zhejiang University


Xuan is a post-doctoral principal researcher at CDR. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Brown University, where she worked with Bertram Malle in the Social Cognitive Science Lab. She also visited the Graduate School of Business and the Department of Psychology at Stanford in 2015. She earned her B.Sc. with first-class honors from Chu Kochen College, Zhejiang University and traveled around the world on Semester At Sea in 2011.

Research Interests 

Xuan's research explores two fundamentally related questions:

  • How do we perceive and interact with other people?
  • How do we perceive and interact with robots?

Xuan's first line of research highlights the simple yet often overlooked fact that people hold different perspectives, that they often perceive and conceive of the world differently from each other. In a series of projects, Xuan highlights such gaps and explore conditions that facilitate people to a) adopt others' visual perspectives, b) discuss interpersonal disagreements, c) express genuine compliments, d) engage in cooperative behaviors, and e) overcome an important barrier to help-seeking.

Given that people also f) take robots' visual "perspectives" and g) attribute human-like mind to robots, Xuan's second line of research focuses on people’s perception of and interaction with human-like machines and algorithms. During this process, Xuan has also h) created the ABOT Database—the largest database on anthropomorphic robots, and i) explored how typos can humanize a chatbot. Through this line of work, Xuan strives to reveal what makes humans human in light of the emergence of robots and AI.

Selected Publications & Presentations

Zhao, X. & Malle, B.F. (under review). Taking Robots’ Visual Perspectives: The Triggering Power of Humanlike Appearance.

Phillips, E., Zhao, X., Ullman, D., & Malle, B. F. (2018). What is human-like?: Decomposing robot human-like appearance using the Anthropomorphic roBOT (ABOT) Database. In HRI ’18: Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press. 

Zhao, X., Malle, B.F., & Gweon, H. (2016). Is it a nine, or a six? Prosocial and selective perspective taking in four-year-olds. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J.C. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 924-292). Austin,TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Zhao, X., Cusimano, C., & Malle, B. F. (2016). Do people spontaneously take a robot’s visual perspective? In HRI ’16: Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, Christchurch, New Zealand (pp. 335-342). Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press. 

Li, J., Cho, M.J., Zhao, X., Ju, W., Malle, B. F. (2016). From trolley to autonomous vehicle: Perception of responsibility and moral norms in traffic accidents with autonomous cars. SAE Technical Paper 2016-01-0164. doi:10.4271/2016-01-0164

Zhao, X., Cusimano, C., & Malle, B.F. (2015). In search of triggering conditions for spontaneous visual perspective taking. In Noelle, D. C., Dale, R., Warlaumont, A. S., Yoshimi, J., Matlock, T., Jennings, C. D., & Maglio, P. P. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2811-2816). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.