Exploring the contents of the
social brain


Learn about yourself. Help us learn about the mind. Participate in an ongoing study!

Predict emotion durations

Test your beliefs about the lengths of other people's mental states (5 minute task)

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Who do you write like?

Submit a text sample to learn which famous writers share your style (4 minute task)

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Big 5 Personality Traits

What are your five basic personality traits? (50 question survey)

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Interpersonal Reactivity Index

How do you empathically react to others' emotions? (28 question survey)

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Behavioral Approach and Inhibition

How motivated are you by reward and punishment? (24 question survey)

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Empathy Quotient

How much do you empathize with others? (40 question survey)

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Need for Cognition

How much do you need intellectual challenge? (10 question survey)

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Need to Belong

How much do you need to feel part of a group? (10 question survey)

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Studies under development

Choose Your Friends Wisely!

Make friends in a network (5 minute task)

Study coming soon.

Network Matchmaker

Who would you introduce? (5 minute task)

Study coming soon.

Past studies

Are they (Facebook) friends?

Studying memory for social networks

This study is no longer available.

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MySocialBrain.org is the online research platform of the
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab.

Web-based data collection

Interactive designs and innovative research.

Data Protection

Anonymized data and secure encryption.

Social Cognitive Neuroscience

The primary focus of our research is social cognitive neuroscience: understanding how the brain allows people to make sense of each other. To that end we use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural basis of diverse social phenomena. Significant contributions of our lab include the finding that different parts of the brain support thinking about similar and dissimilar others, the discovery that self-disclosure is instrinsically rewarding, and numerous studies examining how people use the self to understand others. To learn more about our research, see the list of recent publications below or check out our lab website.

The Mind on the Web

To complement the fine-grained work we do with fMRI, we have lately branched into web research. The primary manifestation of this is this site - MySocialBrain.org - which we are developing into a platform for wide variety of social cognitive experiments. There are many benefits to this approach. From our point of view, we are able to study much larger and more diverse groups of people than we would otherwise be able to. From the participants' point of view, we can offer engaging, interactive experiments with personalized feedback to a broad audience. This site allows people to learn more about themselves while helping us learn more about the mind.

Individual differences in social abilities

One of the major goals of this site has less to do with any one study than with the correlations of multiple studies. Research on "individual differences" - the psychological properties that make people different from one another, such as personality or intelligence - requires very large sample sizes for meaningful results. That's where our account system comes in. By registering, you allow us to correlate your (anonymized) data across studies. We can then begin to answer questions such as "Are social network memory and empathic tendencies associated?" or "Does working memory capacity predict the ability to make accurate social inferences?"


The following are recent publications from our lab. To see more, please visit our lab website

Electronic versions are provided as a professional courtesy to ensure timely dissemination of academic work for individual, noncommercial purposes. Copyright and all rights therein resides with the respective copyright holders, as stated within each paper. These files may not be reposted without permission.

  • 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, 113(1), 194-199. *equal contributions [PDF]
  • Tamir, D. I., Bricker, A. B., Dodell-Feder, D., & Mitchell, J. P. (2016). Reading fiction and reading minds: The role of simulation in the default network. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 11(2), 215-224. [PDF]

Our Team

Lead Researcher | Mark Thornton

Mark studies the structure of social knowledge - how we organize and make sense of other people's mental states, traits, relationships, groups, and networks. He is particularly interested in how the brain implements accurate, efficient solutions to challenging problems in the social domain. Mark received his A.B. from Princeton University in 2011 and his M.A. from Harvard University in 2013. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

Principal Investigator | Jason Mitchell, Ph.D.

Jason employs functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and behavioral methods to study how we infer the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of others (i.e., how we mentalize) as well as how we reason about counterfactual experiences. He received his B.A. and M.S. degrees from Yale University in 1997 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2003. He is currently Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.