Our Faculty

Xiaowei Zhao

Associate Professor of Psychology

Contact Information

617 735-9718

My website

Office Hours

Office: Administration Building, Room 420-A

Student Hours:  T/TR, 8:30AM – 9:15AM; F, 9:15AM -11:45AM or other time by email appointment


Ph.D., B.S., Nankai University, China


I joined the Psychology Department of Emmanuel College in the fall of 2010. Before joining Emmanuel, I served as a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Colgate University (2009-2010), and as a visiting lecturer of psychology at the University of Richmond (2008-2009). I hold a B.S. as well as a Ph.D. in physics from Nankai University in China and completed post doctorate training in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics at the University of Richmond.

In 2017, I served as the President of the Society for Computation in Psychology. I also serve on the editorial board of Frontiers in Psychology/Communication: Language Sciences.

Teaching Interests

The primary and most important goal in my teaching is to create a positive learning environment for students. As a teacher, it is my job to foster and inspire the student's thirst for knowledge. In my class, I use a variety of teaching methods, including class exercises, mini psychology experiments, videos and group activities to keep topics interesting. I also try to incorporate a sense of humor in my class. I have discovered that there is no more effective way than a hearty laugh to keep a student's mind in a fresh state, and my students often appreciate my efforts very much.

Although I am sympathetic to the difficulties of individual students, I am also a serious teacher. I expect my students to understand not only the fundamental theories and methodologies in the discipline of psychology, but also the inner logic of the knowledge contained in the discipline and how to apply textbook knowledge to substantive research and real life. Besides providing high‐quality lectures in class, I always make myself available outside of the classroom through office hours, appointments, phone contact and e-mails. I try my best not to leave any student behind and not to let anyone feel left out. I encourage students to talk to me inside and outside the classroom. It is my belief that one‐on‐one talk and tutoring are the most effective ways to improve a student's academic performance.

I taught and have been teaching a variety of courses covering wide range of psychology, including courses at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. These courses include Introduction to Psychology, Human Cognition, Quantitative Methods in Psychology, Research Methods in Psychology, Psycholinguistics, Advanced Statistics and Research Design, and Multivariate Statistics. In the future, I look forward to applying my skills to an expanded array of advanced topics that are intimately related to my research such as Experimental Psychology, Cognitive neuroscience, Learning and Memory, and Computational Modeling of Cognition.

What I love About Emmanuel: Students

Courses I Teach

  • PSYCH1501: General Psychology 
  • PSYCH2207: Quantitative Methods in Psychology  
  • PSYCH2801-2: Methods and Statistics I - II (with Lab)
  • PSYCH2803: Applied Research in Psychology # 
  • PSYCH3111: Cognition 
  • PSYCH3201: Psychology of Language
  • PSYCH3701: Research Methods in Psychology 
  • HIST2701: Historical Methods and Research (Guest lecturer)
  • PHIL3109: Philosophy of Mind (Guest lecturer)

What I'm Working On

Publications + Presentations

A report of my Google Scholar citation list can be found here.

Edited Book or Conference Proceedings:

  • Zhao, X. (Ed.). Proceedings of the 47th annual meeting of the Society for Computers in Psychology, Vancouver, BC. November, 2017.

Peer-Reviewed Articles in Journals and Conference Proceedings:

  • Zhao, X., & Li, P. (2022). Fuzzy or clear? A computational approach towards dynamic L2 lexical-semantic representation. Frontiers in Communication. 6:726443. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2021.726443
  • Li, P. & Zhao, X. (2021). Computational mechanisms of development? Connectionism and bilingual lexical representation. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • Li, P., Zhang, F., Yu, A., & Zhao, X. (2019). Language History Questionnaire (LHQ 3.0): An enhanced tool for assessing multilingual experience. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728918001153
  • Zhao, X., & Li, P. (2013). Simulating Cross-Language Priming with a Dynamic Computational Model of the Lexicon.Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 16. 288-303.
  • Zhao, X & Li, P. (2013). Self-Organizing Map Models of Language Acquisition. Frontiers in Psychology. 4:828. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00828
  • Zhao, X., Li, P., & Kohonen, T. (2011). Contextual self-organizing map: Software for constructing semantic representation. Behavior Research Methods, 43, 77-88.
  • Zhao, X., & Li, P. (2010). Bilingual lexical interactions in an unsupervised neural network model. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 13. 505-524.
  • Zhao, X., & Li, P. (2009a). Acquisition of aspect in self-organizing connectionist models. Linguistics: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences, 47. 1075-1112.
  • Zhao, X., & Li, P. (2009b). An online database of phnological representation for Mandarin Chinese. Behavioral Research Methods, 41. 575-583.
  • Li, P., Zhao, X., & MacWhinney, B. (2007). Dynamic Self-Organization and children's word learning. Cognitive Science, 31. 581-612.
  • Li, P., Sepanski, S., & Zhao, X. (2006). Language history questionnaires: A web-based interface for bilingual research. Behavioral Research Methods. 38, 202-210.
  • Zhao, X., Zhou, L., & Chen, T. (2004). Spatial and temporal behaviors in a modified evolution model based on small world networks. Commun. Theor. Phys., 42, 242-246.
  • Lin, M., Zhao, X., & Chen, T. (2004). A modified earthquake model of self-organized criticality on small world networks. Commun. Theor. Phys., 41, 557-560.
  • Zhao, X., Zhou, L., & Chen, T. (2003). Effects of different interactive function forms in a self-organized criticality model based on neural networks, Commun. Theor. Phys., 40, 607-613.
  • Zhao, X., & Chen, T. (2003). Different power law behaviors in different specific areas of a system based on neural networks, Commun. Theor. Phys., 40, 363-368.
  • Zhao, X., & Chen, T. (2002). Type of self-organized criticality model based on neural networks, Phys. Rev. E, 65, 026114.
  • Zhao, X., & Chen, T. (2001). Self-organized criticality in a model based on neural networks, Commun. Theor. Phys., 36, 351-356.

Book Chapter (Invited and Peer-reviewed):

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2020). Connectionism. In M. Aronoff (ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online: Linguistics. (originally published 2012, last updated 2020) New York, NY: Oxford University Press http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199772810/obo-9780199772810-0010.xml 

  • Zhao, X. (2017). Connectionism in linguistic theory. In M. Aronoff (ed.), The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2017). Computational modeling. In A. De Groot & P. Hagoort (ed.), Research Methods in Psycholinguistics and the Neurobiology of Language: A Practical Guide. (pp.208 - 229) Cambridge, John Wiley & Sons Inc..

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2015). Computational modeling of bilingual language acquisition and processing. In J. Schwieter (ed.), Cambridge handbook of bilingual processing. ( pp.85-107) Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2014). Connectionist Models of Language Development. In P. Brooks and V. Kempe (ed.), Encyclopedia of Language Development (pp.101-106). SAGE Publications.

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2013a). Connectionist bilingual representation. In R.R. Heredia and J. Altaribba (ed.), Foundations of bilingual memory (pp. 63-84). New York, NY: Springer.

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2013b). Connectionist models of second language acquisition. In M.P. Garcia Mayo et al. (eds.), Contemporary approaches to second language acquisition. (pp. 177-198). Amsterdam, the Netherlands: John Benjamins. (The book is the recipient of the Spanish Association of Applied Linguistics 2014 book award)

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2012). Connectionism. In C.A. Chapelle (ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (Wiley Online Library: DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0186)

  • Li, P., & Zhao, X. (2009). Computational modeling of the expression of time. In The expression of time (pp. 241-271). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

  • Computational Modeling Prize (1st place, Language), 29th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 2007

Research Focus

As a cognitive psychologist, I have primary research interests in cognitive development (particularly language development), knowledge representation, and bilingualism. Specifically, I am interested in many intriguing phenomena in the language learning of children, such as vocabulary spurts and individual developmental differences. I also concentrate my research on language acquisition and lexical development of bilinguals. I am particularly interested in how the two lexicons are developed in the bilingual's mind, and how they interact with each other.

Most recently, I have a strong interest in the large scale network structure of semantic representations. I pursue these research goals from an interdisciplinary approach, including experimental, theoretical and computational methods. I have conducted a series of studies related to these core interests and I have several publications on these topics in a number of prestigious journals and conference proceedings.

I am also a "computer guy," I always have enormous interests in using computer techniques in psychological studies. Neural network model has been an important research tool for me. I am also interested in developing computer tools or online databases to help researchers conducting their studies more effectively. Some of these tools are accessible through my website

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