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Social Connections and Influence Lab
University of Mississippi


Andy Hales

Andy is an Assistant Professor of psychology and directs the Social Connections and Influence lab. He completed his PhD in Social Psychology at Purdue University, and a postdoc at the University of Virginia. Andy’s research addresses three main topics: the psychology of social ostracism, the ways in which people influence each other, either directly or indirectly, and the curious tendency to overlook subtraction as a way to make things better.


Natasha Wood

Natasha is a fourth-year social psychology graduate student in the Experimental Psychology program. She received her B.S. in Criminal Justice from Seattle University, her M.A. in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and her M.S. in Social Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Natasha’s research focuses on the motivations that drive people to radicalize to violent extremism. Her current work focuses on the effect of thwarted fundamental psychological needs on extremism, such as after experiencing loneliness, social isolation, or ostracism. She has other work examining the impact of technologies on relational outcomes and the effect of having instrumental close others on well-being.



Sydney Wicks

Sydney is a third-year social psychology graduate student in the Experimental Psychology PhD program and is supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He received his B.S. in Psychology with minors in sociology and marketing from Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS. His previous research experience focused heavily on exploring how emerging adults were influenced by their parents, romantic partners, and peers. His current work focuses on relationships, social exclusion, and media use. In his free time, he enjoys visiting coffee shops and going to live music events.



Sarah Mohammadi


Sarah is a first-year social psychology graduate student in the Experimental Psychology program. Her academic journey had a shift from geography and urban planning for her Bachelor’s at Tehran University to clinical psychology for her Master’s at Kharazmi University. Now her research focuses on individual differences in responses to ostracism. Sarah’s current work examines if experiencing ostracism leads to increased feelings of schadenfreude toward the ostracizer, seeking to understand coping after being ostracized. Her main interests include ostracism and its coping responses specifically aggressive behaviors. In her free time, Sarah enjoys outdoor activities and cooking.



Elijah Mudryk

Elijah Mudryk is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the clinical psychology program and splits time between the SCI experimental lab and the NICE intercultural lab. His research focuses on the relationship between religiousness and mental health, intercultural contact and conflict, and ways to integrate spiritual ways of thinking into the scientific process. His interest in the SCI lab revolves around the difficult impacts of ostracism that can arise from intercultural or intergroup contact and how group-based thinking impacts these interactions. When he is not studying psychology, Elijah spends his spare time eating Chinese takeout, reading about historical spies and heists, and playing with his dog Godfrey.