Dean Mobbs

Assistant Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
B.S., University of Birmingham, 1999; Ph.D., University College London, 2008. Caltech, 2016-.


Behavioral and Social Neuroscience


Social, Computational and Affective Neuroscience; Neuroecology and Neurophilosophy


Dean Mobbs is interested in the intersection of behavioral ecology, economics, emotion, and social psychology. By understanding the neural, computational and behavioral dynamics of human social and emotional experiences, he wants to develop theoretical models that merge those fields.

Using brain-imaging, computational modeling and behavioral techniques, his lab is probing the neurobiological systems responsible for fear and anxiety, revealing how people learn to control their fears, and how anxiety and psychiatric disorders disrupt those processes. He's interested in the value of social behavior. In particular, he's trying to determine the behavioral and neural signatures behind positive social interactions—for example, those involved with altruism, empathy, and when viewing others' success as rewarding (vicarious reward and reflected glory). His research also focuses on the interplay between social interaction and emotion—how fear can depend on whether you're alone or in a group (e.g. risk dilution).

Prior to Caltech, Mobbs was an assistant professor of psychology at Columbia University and a research assistant at Stanford University. His awards include the APS Janet Spence Award For Transformative Early Career Contributions (2015) and the NARSAD Young Investigator Award (2015). He is a life fellow of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge.

Selected Publications 

Mobbs, D. and Kim J. (2015). Neuroethological studies of fear and risky decision-making in rat and humans. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 5, 8-15.

Mobbs, D., Hassabis, D. Yu, R., Chu, C., Rushworth, M., Boorman, E., Dalgleish, T. (2013).  Foraging under competition: The neural basis of input matching in humans. Journal of Neuroscience. 33; 9866-9872.

FeldmanHall, O., Dalgleish, T. Thompson, R., Evans, D., Schweizer, S., Mobbs, D. (2012). Differential Neural Circuitry and Self-Interest in Real versus Hypothetical Moral Decisions. Social, Cognitive and Affect Neuroscience. 7 (7), 743-751.

Mobbs, D., Yu, R., Rowe, J., Eich, H., Feldmanhall, O., Dalgleish, T. (2010).  Neural activity associated with monitoring the oscillating threat value of a Tarantula. PNAS. 107: 20582-6.

Mobbs, D., Meyer, M., Yu, R., Passamonti, L., Seymour, B.J., Calder A.J., Schweizer, S., Frith, C.D., Dalgleish, T. (2009).  A key role for similarity in vicarious reward. Science. 324, 900.

Takahashi, H., Kato, M., Matsuura, M., Mobbs, D., Suhara, T., Okubo, Y. (2009). When Your Gain Is My Pain and Your Pain is My Gain: Neural Correlates of Envy and Schandenfreude. Science. 323, 937-939.

Mobbs, D., Petrovic, P., Marchant, J., Hassabis, D., Seymour, B., Weiskopf, N., Dolan, R.J., Frith, C.D (2007). When Fear is Near: Threat Imminence Elicits Prefrontal - Periaqueductal Grey Shifts in Humans. Science. 317; 1079-1083.

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