Mina Cikara-Social and Decision Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

Mina Cikara

Assistant Professor, Social and Decision Sciences

Office: PH 319C
Phone: (412) 268-4480


Princeton University, Ph.D.


I use social and cognitive neuroscience approaches to study how group membership and prejudice disrupt the processes that allow people to see others as human and to empathize with others. Specifically, I use a wide range of tools-standard laboratory experiments, implicit and explicit behavioral measures, fMRI and psychophysiology-to study how misunderstanding, failures of empathy, and Schadenfreude unfold in the mind and brain. I am equally interested in the behavioral consequences of these processes. My primary line of research examines the conditions under which social groups and individuals are denied social value, agency, and empathy.

For example: why is it more acceptable to sacrifice a homeless person as compared to a college student in a moral dilemma? Why do Red Sox baseball fans wear t-shirts that read "My two favorite teams are the Red Sox and whoever is beating the Yankees"? Why is it so difficult for people on two sides of a moral issue to understand one another? I am also interested in how emotions elicited by different social groups lead people to devalue, dehumanize, and even harm outgroup members.

Selected Publications

  • Cikara, M., & Fiske, S. T. (2012). Stereotypes and Schadenfreude: Behavioral and physiological markers of pleasure at others' misfortunes. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 63-71.
  • Cikara, M., Rudman, L., & Fiske, S. T. (2012). Dearth by a thousand cuts? Accounting for gender differences in top-ranked publication rates in social psychology. Journal of Social Issues, 68, 263-285.
  • Cikara, M., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). Bounded empathy: Neural responses to outgroup targets' (mis)fortunes. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 3791-3803.
  • Cikara, M., Bruneau, E. G., & Saxe, R. (2011). Us and them: Intergroup failures of empathy. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 20, 149-153.
  • Cikara, M., Botvinick, M. M., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). Us versus them: Social identity shapes neural responses to intergroup competition and harm. Psychological Science, 22, 306-313.
  • Cikara, M., Eberhardt, J. L., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). From agents to objects: Sexist attitudes and neural responses to sexualized targets. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 540-551.
  • Cikara, M., Farnsworth, R. A., Harris, L. T., & Fiske, S. T. (2010). On the wrong side of the trolley track: Neural correlates of relative social valuation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 5, 404-413.