I am broadly interested in the link between what we see and how we conceptualize it. In particular, I study how language encodes the structure of scenes and situations, and what this can tell us about the mental processes (perceptual or otherwise) that extract such information.


I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow in the Departments of Cognitive Science and Psychological & Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. I work with my advisors Mick Bonner and Chaz Firestone, as well as Barbara Landau, on force-dynamic relations ("in" and "on"). I use psychophysical, computational modeling, and fMRI techniques to identify how our perceptual and cognitive systems extract these relations from scenes. (Did you know that a phone in a basket looks remarkably similar to a knife in a cup?).

Before Hopkins, I was at the University of Pennsylvania, where I got my PhD in Psychology with John Trueswell and Russell Epstein. My main focus as a graduate student was how we perceive and recognize events, i.e. what is happening (who did what to whom).

My recent collaborators include Julian De Freitas (PhD Student, Harvard) and Brent Strickland (CNRS Researcher, Ecole Normal Superieure / Institut Jean Nicod).

When not doing science, I enjoy making (absurdly) large quantities of homemade soup and beer, and performing in an annual Purim show as the beloved Vashti.



Journal Articles and Preprints

Refereed Conference Proceedings

In Preparation

15.  Hafri, A., Bonner, M.F. (in prep). "Honey, I shrunk the scene": Perceived spatial scale alters memory for scene boundaries [working title].

14.  Hafri, A., Bonner, M.F., Trueswell, J.C., & Epstein, R.A. (in prep). A model of semantic structure predicts cortical responses to verbs in naturalistic language [working title].

13.  De Freitas, J.*, Hafri, A.*, Yamins, D.L.K., Alvarez, G.A. (in prep). Learning to recognize objects provides category-orthogonal features for social inference and moral judgment [working title].    * co-first authors

12.  Hafri, A., & Firestone, C. (under review). The perception of relations.

11.  Hafri, A.*, Boger, T.*, & Firestone, C. (under review). Dynamic representation of physical states.    * co-first authors


10.  Hafri, A., Landau, B., Bonner, M.F., & Firestone, C. (under review). A phone in a basket looks like a knife in a cup: The perception of abstract relations. [https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/jx4yg]

9.  Caplan, S., Hafri, A., Trueswell, J.C. (in press). Now you hear me, later you don’t: The immediacy of linguistic computation and the representation of speech. To appear in Psychological Science. [https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/mhnqd]

8.  Hafri, A., Trueswell, J.C., & Strickland, B. (2018). Encoding of event roles from visual scenes is rapid, spontaneous, and interacts with higher-level visual processing. Cognition, 175, 336-52. [pdf]

7.  Hafri, A., Trueswell, J.C., & Epstein, R.A. (2017). Neural representations of observed actions generalize across static and dynamic visual input. The Journal of Neuroscience, 37(11), 3056-3071. [pdf]

6.  Hafri., A., Papafragou, A., & Trueswell, J.C. (2013). Getting the gist of events: Recognition of two-participant actions from brief displays. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(3), 880-905. [pdf]

5.  Trueswell, J.C., Medina, T.N., Hafri, A., & Gleitman, L.R. (2013). Propose but verify: Fast mapping meets cross-situational word learning. Cognitive Psychology, 66(1), 126-156. [pdf]

4.  Caplan, S., Hafri, A., Trueswell, J.C. (2019). Now you hear me, later you don’t: Speech processing does not involve acoustic maintenance. In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Montreal, Canada.

3.  Wehry, J., Hafri, A., Trueswell, J.C. (2019). The end’s in plain sight: Implicit association of visual and conceptual boundedness. In Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Montreal, Canada.

2.  Hafri, A., Trueswell, J. C., & Strickland, B. (2016). Extraction of event roles from visual scenes is rapid, automatic, and interacts with higher-level visual processing. In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Philadelphia, PA.

1.  Trueswell, J.C., Kaufman, D., Hafri, A., & Lidz, J. (2012). Development of parsing abilities interacts with grammar learning: Evidence from Tagalog and Kannada. In Proceedings of the 36th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press. [pdf]



Alon Hafri

Johns Hopkins University

Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences

3400 North Charles Street

Baltimore, MD 21218-2687




© 2020 by Alon Hafri

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