Faculty » Brent Hughes

My work focuses broadly on the phenomenon of motivated cognition, under which goals and needs guide individuals’ thinking towards their desired conclusions. These motives (i) range from the need to feel good about oneself to the desire to affiliate with others, (ii) pervasively shape cognition and decision-making, and (iii) have far-reaching consequences on real-world outcomes. My research program examines the processes underlying these 3 facets of motivated cognition across various settings. For example, why do we see ourselves and close others in an overly positive light? How does approval and rejection feedback influence what we think about others and ourselves? How do inflated beliefs about our ability to exert control over our environments influence maladaptive risk-taking behaviors? How does ingroup favoritism lead to biases against people who are not part of our group? My work examines these kinds of questions using a broad array of methods from social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, vision science, and behavioral economics.

Selected Publications

Hughes, B. L., Zaki, J., & Ambady, N. (in press). Motivation alters impression formation and related neural systems. Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience.

Hughes, B. L., Ambady, N., & Zaki, J. (in press). Trusting outgroup, but not ingroup members, requires control: Neural and behavioral evidence. Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience.

Hughes, B. L., & Zaki, J. (2015). The neuroscience of motivated cognition. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19, 62-64.

Hughes, B. L., & Beer, J. S. (2013). Protecting the self: The effect of social-evaluative threat on neural representations of self. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25, 613-622.

Hughes, B. L., & Beer, J. S. (2012). Medial orbitofrontal cortex is associated with shifting decision thresholds in self-serving cognition. NeuroImage, 61, 889-898.

Hughes, B. L., & Beer, J. S. (2012). Orbitofrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex are modulated by motivated social cognition. Cerebral Cortex, 22, 1372-1381.

Beer, J. S., & Hughes, B. L. (2010). Neural systems of social comparison and the "Above-Average" Effect. NeuroImage, 49, 2671-2679.