Mark A. Thornton

|Assistant Professor (Beginning July, 2020)

Connect with Us

Sociality defines human life. Our happiness and prosperity depend greatly on our ability to interact successfully with others. We need other people to help us learn and grow, to protect and guide us, to work and build with us, to find love and make meaning. However, the complexity of the social world also makes it challenging to navigate. To interact with others, we must understand their personality traits, momentary mental states, actions, and situations. My research investigates how the brain organizes social knowledge by distilling the complexity of the social world down to its essential ingredients. To do so, I use fMRI, text analysis, behavior, and modeling to uncover the dimensions which structure our minds' maps of social space. I then investigate how these maps allow us to successfully navigate the social world by predicting others' thoughts, feelings, and actions.

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Education

  • A.B. Princeton University
  • A.M. Harvard University
  • Ph.D. Harvard University
  • Postdoc, Princeton University

Selected Publications

  • Thornton, M. A., Weaverdyck, M. E., & Tamir, D. I. (2019). The brain represents people as the mental states they habitually experience. Nature Communications, 10, 2291. [Paper - open access] [Preprint] [Data & code] [Blog]

    Thornton, M. A., Weaverdyck, M. E., & Tamir, D. I. (2019). The social brain automatically predicts others’ future mental states. The Journal of Neuroscience, 39(1), 140-148. [Preprint] [Data & code] [Blog]

    Tamir, D.I.*, Thornton, M.A.* (2018). Modeling the predictive social mind. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 22(3) 201-212.
    *equal contributions [PDF] [Commentary by Rebecca Saxe]

    Thornton, M. A., & Mitchell, J. P. (2018). Theories of person perception predict patterns of neural activity during mentalizing. Cerebral Cortex, 28(10), 3505-3520. [PDF] [Data & code] [Blog]

    Thornton, M. A., & Tamir, D. I. (2017). Mental models accurately predict emotion transitions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(23), 5982-5987. [PDF] [Data & code] [Blog]

    Tamir, D. I.*, Thornton, M. A.*, Contreras, J. M., & Mitchell, J. P. (2016). Neural evidence that three dimensions organize mental state representation: Rationality, social impact, and valence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(1), 194-199.
    *equal contributions [PDF] [Data & code] [Blog] [Commentary by Dubois & Adolphs]