Neukom Fellow '23 Dae Sean Houlihan wins Glushko Dissertation Prize from the Cognitive Science Society.

This highly prestigious award honors recent graduates conducting ground-breaking research in cognitive science.

Dae completed his PhD at MIT, in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, where he was advised by Rebecca Saxe, Josh Tenenbaum, and John Gabrieli. In his thesis, "A computational framework for emotion understanding," Dae built formal mathematical models of emotional intelligence.

The starting point for his work was asking: how do people figure out what others are feeling? Dae approached this question by framing emotion understanding as causal reasoning over a Bayesian Theory of Mind. He proposed that people build mental models of others' minds to represent their beliefs, preferences, and actions, and that we use these models to reason about others' emotions. His thesis goes on to show how scientists can build AI models that both emulate people's emotion understanding and shed light on the inner-workings of the human mind.

The Glushko Dissertation Prize highlights interdisciplinary work that advances the scientific understanding of the nature of minds and intelligent systems. The prize confers a $10,000 no-strings-attached award to be used by recipients without constraints. Dae will receive the award this July in the Netherlands at the Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.

As a Neukom fellow, Dae is continuing his research in collaboration with Luke Chang (, Jonathan Phillips (, Soroush Vosoughi (, and SouYoung Jin (