Shawn A. Rhoads, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Lindau Nobel Laureate Young Scientist, Computational Neuroscientist, Cognitive Scientist, Psychological Scientist, Human Welfare Researcher, Computational Modeler, Neuroimager, Brainhacker, Social Justice Advocate, Environmentalist, Open Science Advocate
Hero Image

About Me

Who am I?

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Dr. Xiaosi Gu and the Center for Computational Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. I earned my Ph.D. while working in the Laboratory on Social and Affective Neuroscience at Georgetown University under the mentorship of Dr. Abigail Marsh. I graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor's Degree in both physics and psychology.

I am also an avid social justice, environmental, and open science advocate. I have been involved with advocacy work for environmental sustainability and social justice on the local and national level. I strive to make science open, equitable, and accessible to all.

I'm always open to collaborate! Please feel free to contact me on the Brainhack Mattermost or through any of the links below.

What I Do

What key factors impact human welfare?

I approach this question by studying the neurocomputational basis of human interpersonal perception, learning and decision-making in social contexts, and emotional experiences that are shared (i.e., interactions with others) or vicarious (i.e., affective empathy). I examine sources of individual variation in these phenomena relevant to mental health and socioemotional well-being.

I pursue this line of work with two primary goals. The first is to achieve a mechanistic understanding of the factors that improve or impair the well-being of the self and others across multiple levels of analysis (e.g., neural, cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal, societal). The second is to translate this understanding for direct application in medicine and policy.

Research methods include: computational modeling, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and intracranial electroencephalography

Scientific Works

What have I published?

* denotes equal contributions
m denotes mentee
  • All
  • Mental Health
  • Subjective Well-Being
  • Social Learning
  • Social Inference
  • Social Decision-Making
  • Social Distance
  • Social Neuroscience
  • Computational Psychiatry
  • Prosociality
  • Interpersonal Perception
  • Emotional Perception
  • Affective Experience
  • Empathy
  • Individual Differences
  • Computational Modeling
  • Neuroimaging
  • Open, Inclusive Science
Rhoads, S. A. & Marsh, A. A. (2024). Modeling the minds of friends: Dorsomedial prefrontal cortex encodes accurate dyadic meta-evaluations about how others perceive us. PsyArXiv. [preprint] [tutorial] [colab] [data+code] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A., mGan, L., Berluti, K., O'Connell, K., Cutler, J. Lockwood, P. L., & Marsh, A. A. (2023). Neurocomputational basis of learning when choices simultaneously affect both oneself and others. PsyArXiv. [preprint] [preregistration] [data+code] [altmetric]
*Vlasceanu, M., *Doell, K. C., *Bak-Coleman, J. B., Todorova, B., Weinberg- Berkebile, M. M., Grayson, S. J., Patel, Y., Goldwert, D., Pei, Y., Chakroff, A., Pronizius, E., van den Broek, K. L., Vlasceanu, D., Constantino, S., Morais, M. J., Schumann, P., Rathje, S., Fang, K., ..., Rhoads, S. A., ..., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2023). Addressing climate change with behavioral science: A global intervention tournament in 63 countries. Science Advances. [article] [preprint] [shinyapp] [code] [altmetric] [altmetric]
*Doell, K. C., *Todorova, B., *Vlasceanu, M., Bak-Coleman, J. B., Pronizius, E., Schumann, P., Azevedo, F., Patel, Y., Berkebile-Wineberg, M. M., Brick, C., Lange, F., Grayson, S. J., Pei, Y., Chakroff, A., van den Broek, K. L., Lamm, C., Vlasceanu, D., Constantino, S. M., Rathje, S., Goldwert, D., Fang, K., ..., Rhoads, S. A., ..., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2023). The International Climate Psychology Collaboration: Climate change-related data collected from 63 countries. PsyArXiv. [preprint] [altmetric]
*Amormino, P., *Rhoads, S. A., Vekaria, K. M., mGan, L., & Marsh, A. A. (2024). Political ideology shapes beliefs about others’ generosity, not one’s own generosity. PsyArXiv. [preprint] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A. & Marsh, A. A. (2023). Traits of extraordinary altruists. In S. T. Allison, J. K. Beggan, & G. R. Goethals (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Heroism Studies. Springer International Publishing. [chapter] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A., O'Connell, K., Berluti, K., Ploe, M. L., Elizabeth, H. S., Amormino, P., Li, J. L., Dutton, M. A., VanMeter, A. S., & Marsh, A. A. (2023). Neural responses underlying extraordinary altruists’ generosity for socially distant others. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nexus. [article] [preprint] [preregistration] [data+code] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A., Vekaria, K. M., O'Connell, K., Elizabeth, H. S., Rand, D. G., Kozak Williams, M., & Marsh, A. A. (2023). Unselfish traits and social decision-making patterns characterize six populations of real-world extraordinary altruists. Nature Communications. [article] [preprint] [preregistration] [data+code] [altmetric]
*Na, S., *Rhoads, S. A., Yu, A. N. C., Fiore, V. G., & Gu, X. (2023). Towards a neurocomputational account of social controllability: from models to mental health. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. [article] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A. & Marsh, A. A. (2023). Doing good and feeling good: Relationships between altruism and well-being for altruists, beneficiaries, and observers. In J. F. Helliwell, R. Layard, J. D. Sachs, J.-E. De Neve, L. B. Aknin, & S. Wang (Eds.), World Happiness Report 2023. (pp. 103-130). United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. [chapter]
Rhoads, S. A. & mGan, L. (2022). Computational models of human social behavior and neuroscience: An open educational course and Jupyter Book to advance computational training. Journal of Open Source Education. [article] [book] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A., Cutler, J., & Marsh, A. A. (2021). A feature-based network analysis and fMRI meta-analysis reveal three distinct types of prosocial decisions. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. [article] [preprint] [data] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A., mGunter, D., Ryan, R. M., & Marsh, A. A. (2021). Global variation in subjective well-being predicts seven forms of altruism. Psychological Science. [article] [preprint] [data+code] [altmetric]
O'Connell, K., Rhoads, S. A., & Marsh, A. A. (2024). Fear: An evolutionary perspective on its biological, behavioral, and communicative features. In L. Al-Shawaf & T. Shackelford (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Evolution and the Emotions. [chapter] [altmetric]
*Gau, R., *Noble, S., *Heuer, K., *Bottenhorn K. L., *Bilgin, I. P., *Yang, Y.-F., *Huntenburg, J. M., *Bayer, J., *Bethlehem, R. A. I., Rhoads, S. A., ..., & The Brainhack Community. (2021). Brainhack: developing a culture of open, inclusive, community-driven neuroscience. Neuron. [article] [book] [preprint] [altmetric]
Mukherjee, P., Vilgis V., Rhoads, S. A., Chahal, R., Fassbender, C., Leibenluft, E., Dixon, J. F., Pakyurek, M., van den Bos, W., Hinshaw, S. P., Guyer, A. E., Schweitzer, J. B. (2021). Associations of irritability with functional connectivity of amygdala and nucleus accumbens in adolescents and young adults with ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders. [article] [altmetric]
O'Connell, K., Berluti, K., Rhoads, S. A., & Marsh, A. A. (2021). Reduced social distancing early in the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with antisocial behaviors in an online United States sample. PLoS ONE. [article] [data+code] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A., Cardinale, E. M., O'Connell, K., Palmer, A. L., VanMeter, J. W., & Marsh, A. A. (2020). Mapping neural activity patterns to contextualized fearful facial expressions onto callous-unemotional (CU) traits: Intersubject representational similarity analysis reveals less variation among high-CU adolescents. Personality Neuroscience. [article] [data+code] [altmetric]
Berluti, K., O'Connell, K., Rhoads, S. A., Brethel-Haurwitz, K. M., Cardinale, E. M., Vekaria, K. M., Robertson, E. L., Walitt, B., VanMeter, J. W., & Marsh A. A. (2020). Reduced multi-voxel pattern similarity of vicarious neural pain responses in psychopathy. Journal of Personality Disorders. [article] [data+code] [altmetric]
Vekaria, K. M., O'Connell, K., Rhoads, S. A., Brethel-Haurwitz, K. M., Cardinale, E. M., Robertson, E. L., Walitt, B., VanMeter, J. W., & Marsh A. A. (2020). Activation in bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) corresponds to everyday helping. Cortex. [article] [data+code] [altmetric]
Vilgis, V., Rhoads, S. A., Weissman, D. G., Gelardi, K. L., Forbes, E. E., Hipwell, A. E., Keenan, K., Hastings, P. D., & Guyer, A. E. (2019). Direct replication of task-dependent neural activation patterns during sadness introspection in two independent adolescent samples. Human Brain Mapping. [article] [altmetric]
O'Connell, K., Brethel-Haurwitz, K. M., Rhoads, S. A., Cardinale, E. M., Vekaria, K. M., Robertson, E. L., Walitt, B., VanMeter, J. W., & Marsh, A. A. (2019). Increased similarity of neural responses to experienced and empathic distress in costly altruism. Scientific Reports. [article] [data+code] [altmetric]
Chahal, R., Weissman, D. G., Marek, S., Rhoads, S. A., Hipwell, A. E., Forbes, E. E., Keenan, K., & Guyer, A. E. (2019). Girls' brain structural connectivity in late adolescence relates to history of depression symptoms. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. [article] [altmetric]
Marsh, A. A., Rhoads, S. A., Ryan, R. M. (2018). A multi-semester classroom demonstration yields evidence in support of the facial feedback effect. Emotion. [article] [data] [altmetric]
Rhoads, S. A. & Rocha-Hidalgo, J. (2020). Designing a course and syllabus in psychological science: Tips and resources for enhancing your classroom experience. Psychological Science Agenda, American Psychological Association. [article]
Rhoads, S. A. (2020). What is a hackathon? An introduction for psychological scientists. Psychological Science Agenda, American Psychological Association. [article]
Rhoads, S. A. (2019). A brief introduction to Python for psychological science research. Psychological Science Agenda, American Psychological Association. [article]

Teaching Resources

What have I taught?

PSYC 347 - Computational Models of Human Social Behavior and Neuroscience

I designed and taught PSYC 347 - Computational Models of Human Social Behavior and Neuroscience during the spring of 2021. Information about the course materials and accompanying Jupyter Book can be found here.

Summer Program in Computational Education

I co-direct and teach an eight-week summer program for high school and college students, with a focus on providing early computational neuroscience training for underserved students. Information about the course materials and accompanying Jupyter Book can be found here.

Neuromatch Academy in Computational Neuroscience

I served as a teaching assistant for Neuromatch Academy during the summer 2020. Course content and tutorials can be found here.

NSCI 526 - Computational Neuroscience

As the Teaching Assistant, I designed and taught tutorials to supplement Dr. Max Riesenhuber's Computational Neuroscience graduate course at Georgetown University.

Executable Books

I led a workshop on compiling supplemental materials (e.g., code, visualizations) from their projects into a Jupyter Book website. The workshop materials and executable book template can be found here.

Introduction to BIDS

I led a workshop on the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS) at the 2020 Brainhack DC. The workshop materials can be found here.

Introduction to Python for Neuroimagers

I led a workshop on using Python for Neuroimaging Research at the 2019 Brainhack DC. The workshop materials can be found here.

In the News

Where has my work been featured?

Three Alumni Receive Glassman Distinguished Dissertation Award

Georgetown University


Read More

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Hero?

Psychology Today


Read More

The Neuroscience Behind Superhuman Acts of Generosity

Georgetown University


Read More

Happiness Is a Movement

Psychology Today


Read More

These 3 Personality Traits Define Extreme Altruists — Do You Have Them?



Read More

Heroes, They’re Just Like Us (Almost)

The Medical Republic


Read More

Psychologists Map the Psyche of Extreme Altruists



Read More

Georgetown Researchers Contribute to UN World Happiness Report

Georgetown University


Read More

Ph.D. Students are Winners at 2022 Graduate Student Awards

Georgetown University


Read More Read More Read More

Shawn Rhoads Successfully Defends Doctoral Dissertation

Georgetown University


Read More

The 2021 APA Dissertation Research Award Recipients

American Psychological Association


Read More

Individualism Makes Us Altruistic and Happy



Read More

Everyone Thinks Americans Are Selfish. They’re Wrong.

New York Times


Read More

Interview with Shawn Rhoads, Recipient of the Mistletoe Research Fellowship

Georgetown University


Read More

Ph.D. Student to Participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Georgetown University


Read More

Four Graduate Students Win NSF Fellowships

Georgetown University


Read More


Where have I worked?

2022 - present

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Center for Computational Psychiatry
PI: Xiaosi Gu, Ph.D.

2017 - 2022

Predoctoral Research Fellow

Georgetown University

Laboratory on Social & Affective Neuroscience
PI: Abigail A. Marsh, Ph.D.

2016 - 2017

Junior Specialist

University of California, Davis

Human Experiences & Affective Development Laboratory
PIs: Amanda E. Guyer, Ph.D. and Paul D. Hastings, Ph.D.

2015 - 2016

Research Assistant

University of Southern California

Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning, & Education
PI: Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ph.D.

2013 - 2015

Research Assistant

University of Southern California

Department of Physics and Astronomy
PI: Edward J. Rhodes, Jr., Ph.D.

2011 - 2012

Research Assistant

Stevens Institute of Technology

Department of Engineering Physics
PI: Norman J. M. Horing, Ph.D.

Social and Environmental Justice

How I haved organized and advocated?

Collaborated with students, faculty, and staff across varying departments to compose a comprehensive sustainability plan for the University of Southern California (USC News: 09/11/15, 11/23/15; USC Daily Trojan: 04/14/15).

Pioneered a synchronous day of action with students on 70 college campuses across the nation to amplify a message to combat climate change (USC News: 9/29/15; Daily Trojan: 09/30/15, 10/04/15).

Served as a leading architect of the bylaws, allocation, and procedure for the distribution of $90,000 towards student-driven sustainability projects at USC; The USC Green Engagement Fund received a total of $169,816.01 grant requests during its first year. (USC Daily Trojan: 03/10/15).

Established USC Environmental Student Assembly under the Programming Branch of the Undergraduate Student Government as the Founding Executive Director to unite and serve as a resource to all students and organizations that seek to expand environmental action and awareness on campus (USC Daily Trojan: 12/04/13, 09/09/14, 04/01/15).

Represented voice of the environmental student community at USC through active response to current affairs, communication with University administration, and advancement of University initiatives (USC Daily Trojan: 10/20/14, 10/30/14, 08/31/15; Neon Tommy: 04/2/15, 05/24/15; USC Annenberg TV News: 04/02/15; Inside Higher Ed: 04/16/15).

Partnered with local, environmentally-focused community organizations to support their initiatives on and off campus (USC News: 3/10/15, 09/28/15; USC Daily Trojan: 10/3/14, 01/27/15, 02/23/15, 03/9/15).

Transformed an initial budget of $5000 into spending of $50,000 across 85 original large-scale sustainability events and programs over two years for the entire student body (USC News: 04/3/14; Daily Trojan: 04/22/14, 10/16/14, 10/16/14, 11/23/14, 04/05/15, 11/05/15).