Predicting other people shapes the social mind

Diana I. Tamir, Mark A. Thornton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


People have a rich understanding of the social world within which they are embedded. How do they organize this social knowledge? And to what end? We suggest that these two questions are intimately linked. We review a burgeoning literature which shows how the social mind organizes different layers of social knowledge—including knowledge of actions, mental states, personality traits, situations, and relationships—into parsimonious low-dimensional maps. By distilling much of the complexity of the social world down to coordinates on a few key psychological dimensions, people construct a highly efficient representation of the social world. We go on to review recent research showing that these maps facilitate accurate, automatic prediction of real-world social dynamics. Specifically, the placement of stimuli within these maps implicitly encodes predictions about the social future, both within the same layer of social knowledge, and across different layers. Moreover, the ability of these maps to predict the social future is no coincidence: increasing evidence suggests that the goal of prediction actively shapes the way people organize social knowledge. We conclude by discussing challenges and future directions for studying the predictive social mind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Social Psychology
ISSN (Print)0065-2601

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


  • Actions
  • Dynamics
  • Emotion
  • Mental states
  • Mentalizing
  • Prediction
  • Social cognition
  • Social neuroscience
  • Traits


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