The human mind operates at the junction of two vastly different worlds. Behind our eyes exists the world of the self, a buzzing internal mental life filled with thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that together define our unique perspectives. Beyond our eyes exists the external world, a vast physical environment itself replete with other people, each one also buzzing with his or her own internal mental life. How does our mind bridge these two worlds?
My research proceeds from the observation that both the internal and external worlds exert an enormous influence on our thoughts and behaviors. On the one hand, each of us have to experience the world through our own singular perspective. On the other hand, our survival necessitates that we escape our subjective perspective to think about the external social world. My research investigates the thoughts, cognitive processes, and behaviors that arise from these self and social forces using a combination of functional neuroimaging, behavioral experiments, and data science methods.
Ongoing research questions include: Why is it so difficult to think outside the here-and-now? How do people get “unstuck” from their local perspective in order to think about other peoples’ minds? Can reading fiction improve the ability to think about others’ minds? How does the brain represent mental states? Why do people self-disclose—or share information about themselves with others—so frequently? How do social media take advantage of our selfish and social drives?