Hello! I'm Tao Gao, a postdoctoral associate in Josh Tenenbaum's Computational Cognitive Science lab at MIT. I got my Ph.D from Yale, working with Brian Scholl in the Perception & Cognition lab, and Gregory McCarthy in the Human Neuroscience lab.

My research program explores the nature of human visual perception, with a special focus on how perception provides a foundation for aspects of higher-level cognition. As a case study, I have been exploring the perceptual roots of social cognition \ focusing on how perception traffics in a set of
high-level properties that we typically associate with cognition. These properties include animacy, agency, and intentionality, which are critical for our understanding of the social world. My work in this area touches on themes from various parts of our field, including vision science, social psychology, and developmental psychology. I'm conducting several different kinds of studies that contribute to this overall research project, including explorations of (1) just what kinds of cues trigger this form of perception; (2) what are the rigorous and precise  computational underpinnings of perceived animacy; (3) how the perception of these social properties influences subsequent cognition and action; and (4) the neural correlates of this particular type of social perception. Collectively, these projects show how the perception of animacy and intentionality is wired into our minds and brains in deeper and more pervasive ways than have been previously appreciated.


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