Externally observable components of human actions carry only a tiny fraction of the information that matters. Human observers are vastly more interested in perceiving or inferring the mental states - the beliefs, desires and intentions - that lie behind the observable shell. If a person checks her watch, is she uncertain about the time, late for an appointment, or bored with the conversation? If a person shoots his friend on a hunting trip, did he intend revenge or just mistake his friend for a partridge? The mechanism people use to infer and reason about another person’s states of mind is called a ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM). One of the most striking discoveries of recent human cognitive neuroscience is that there is a group of brain regions in human cortex that selectively and specifically underlie this mechanism. Our lab studies these brain regions for Theory of Mind, as a case study in the deeper and broader question: how does the brain - an electrical and biological machine - construct abstract thoughts?
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Bedny, M., Caramazza, A., Grossman, E., Pascual-Leone, A., & Saxe, R. (2008). Concepts are more than percepts - the case of action verbs The Journal of Neuroscience.
Young, L., Cushman, F., Hauser, M., & Saxe, R. (2007) The neural basis of the interaction between theory of mind and moral judgment PNAS.
Saxe, R. (2006). Uniquely Human Social Cognition Current Opinion in Neurobiology.
Saxe, R. (2006). Why and how to study Theory of Mind with fMRI Brain Research.
Saxe, R., & Powell, L. (2006). Its the thought that counts Psychological Science.
Saxe, R., & Kanwisher, N. (2003). People thinking about thinking people- fMRI studies of Theory of Mind Neuroimage.