Our bodies can only ever exist in the here-and-now. However, through the power of our imagination, humans can conjure up experiences wholly divorced from their current environment—a capacity known as simulation. The lab studies the cognitive and neural mechanisms that support successful simulation.
We have examined the neural network responsible for simulation, the brain’s default network, and found that it is engaged more for simulating the self in proximal than distal scenarios in four dimensions—spatial, temporal, hypothetical, and social distance alike (Tamir & Mitchell, 2011). We have also explored fiction reading as a means of facilitating simulations of both people and places (Tamir, Bricker, Dodell-Feder, & Mitchell, 2016), and possibly improving one's ability to simulate other’s minds. We have explored other consequences of thinking outside the here and now, for example on an individuals perceived meaning in life (Waytz, Hershfield, & Tamir, 2015). We are currently exploring simulation by studying individuals with expertise in imagination, creativity, and mentalizing.