Spike W. S. Lee

Associate Professor, Cross-appointed from Rotman School of Management


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

I am a social psychologist with interests in philosophy of mind and cognitive sciences. I investigate how constructs fundamental to social life (e.g., morality, independence, social class, political orientation) are represented and processed in the human mind (e.g., Lee & Schwarz, 2010, Science; Oyserman & Lee, Psychological Bulletin). I find that bodily experiences (e.g., physical cleansing, fishy smells) exert causal influence on people's moral compass, decisional bias, and economic behavior, even if they are merely metaphorically related. Recently, I published a theoretical framework called Grounded Procedures (Lee & Schwarz, 2020, Behavioral and Brain Sciences), where I articulated how physical actions such as cleansing produce diverse psychological consequences. Currently, I am building a broader multi-process framework for conceptualizing the proximate mechanisms underlying mind-body relations (Lee & Cecutti, in press) and testing its predictions in social, political, and cultural contexts. 


Spike is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Marketing (Cross-Appointed) at the University of Toronto.

He is interested in how higher-order mental processes are grounded in sensorimotor experiences with the physical world, often leading to quirky effects (e.g., physical cleansing helps people move on by "wiping the slate clean"; when people "smell something fishy," they become suspicious and invest less money in a trust-dependent economic game). 

His current projects are diverse in content and methodology. Content domains include morality and politics, social class and culture, irrational judgments and decisions, psychological essentialism and lay beliefs, cleanliness and purity, contagion and magic, beauty and aesthetics, pleasure and pain, and goals and priming. Methodological approaches range from cognitive and behavioral experiments to psychophysiology to meta-analysis. 

In terms of theoretical goals, he explores how the mind interacts with the body in multiple ways; why mind-body relations are often predicted by the metaphors we use; when and how metaphors influence emotion, motivation, judgment, and behavior; what cognitive principles govern these effects; and how they vary by experimental, social, and cultural contexts. 

He received the 2017 Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, the 2016 Rising Star designation by the Association for Psychological Science, and the 2010 Early Graduate Student Researcher Award from the American Psychological Association. He is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology.