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Thomas Hills (Professor)

Thomas Hills

Cognitive Search, MIT Press

Cognitive Search: Evolution Algorithms and the Brain. MIT Press.

email: t.t.hills (at)

tel: (024) 765 23183



I am interested in how we interact with complex information environments, both inside and outside our heads. Complex information environments are things like language, memory, and choice environments when there are many alternatives to choose from. My research focuses on how the structure of these environments and the way cognition 'navigates' them influence the kinds of things we learn, recall, and choose.

My research uses experiments, sizable data, network science, machine learning, and mathematical models, with applications to behavioural and cognitive science.

I am the Director of the Bridges-Leverhulme Doctoral Training Centre and the Behavioural and Data Science MSc, and I co-direct Warwick's Global Research Priority in Behaviour, Brain & Society.

I am currently a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute. The Turing Institute offers PhD studentships to work with its Fellows for exceptional candidates. I am also a Research Fellow of the Royal Society.

Does my algorithm have a mental health problem, published in Aeon.

Masters of reality: the evolution of shamanism, published in Aeon.

Publications and pdfs

Representative Publications:

  • Miani, A., Hills, T., & Bangerter, A. (2021).LOCO: the 88-million-word language of conspiracy corpus. Behavioral Research Methods.
  • Menczer, F., & Hills, T. (2020). The attention economy. Scientific American. link
  • Haebig, E., Jimenez, E., Cox, C., & Hills, T. (2020). Characterizing the early vocabulary profiles of preverbal and minimally verbal children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism. In press.
  • Jimenez, E., Haebig, E., & Hills, T. (2020). Identifying areas of overlap and distinction in early lexical profiles of children with autism spectrum disorder, late talkers, and typical talkers Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. In press.
  • Badman, R., Hills, T., & Akaishi, R. (2020). Multiscale computation and dynamic attention in biological and artificial intelligence. Brain Sciences.
  • Li, Y., Hills, T., & Hertwig, R. (2020). A brief history of risk. Cognition.
  • Todd, P.M., & Hills, T. (2020). Foraging in mind. Current Directions in Psychological Science.
  • Li, Y., Annasya, M., & Hills, T. (2020). The Emotional recall task: Juxtaposing recall and recognition-based affect scales. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.
  • Hills, T., Proto, E., Sgroi, D., & Seresinhe, C. (2019). Historical analysis of national subjective wellbeing using millions of digitized books. Nature Human Behavior, 1-5.
  • Hills, T. (2019). Neurocognitive free will. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
  • Li, Y., Engelthaler, T., Siew, C. S., & Hills, T. (2019). The Macroscope: A tool for examining the historical structure of language. Behavior Research Methods, 1-14.
  • Herzog, S., & Hills, T. (2019) Mediation centrality in adversarial policy networks. Complexity.
  • Hills, T. (2018). The dark side of information proliferation. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
  • Jagiello, R., & Hills, T. (2018). Bad news has wings: Dread risk mediates social amplification in risk communication. Risk Analysis, 38, 2193–2207.
  • Hills, T., & Siew, C. S. (2018). Filling gaps in early word learning. Nature Human Behaviour, 2(9), 622.
  • Engelthaler, T., & Hills, T. (2018). Humor norms for 4,997 English words. Behavior Research Methods, 50(3), 1116-1124.
  • Dubossarsky, H., De Deyne, S., & Hills, T. (2017). Quantifying the structure of free association networks across the life span. Developmental Psychology, 53(8), 1560.
  • Engelthaler, T. & Hills, T. (2017). Feature biases in early word learning: Network distinctiveness predicts age of acquisition. Cognitive Science, 41, 120-140.
  • Sgroi, D., Hills, T., O'Donnell, G., Oswald, A. J., & Proto, E. (2017). Understanding Happiness: A CAGE Policy Report. Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy.
  • Noguchi, T., & Hills, T. (2016). Description-experience gap in choice deferral. Decision, 3, 54-61.
  • Hills, T., Proto, E., & Srgoi, D. (2015). Historical analysis of national subjective wellbeing using millions of digitized books. IZA Discussion Paper No. 9195.
  • Hills, T., & Adelman, J. (2015). Recent evolution in the learnability of American English from 1800 to 2000. Cognition, 143, 87-92.
  • Jones, M.N., Hills, T., & Todd, P.M. (2015). Hidden processes in structural representations: A reply to Abbot, Austerweil, and Griffiths (2015). Psychological Review, 122, 570-574.
  • Bilson, S., Yoshida, H., Tran, C., Woods, E., & Hills, T. (2015). Semantic facilitation in bilingual first language acquisition. Cognition, 140, 122-134.
  • Hills, T. & Butterfill, S. (2015). From foraging to autonoetic consciousness: The primal self as a consequence of embodied prospective foraging. Current Zoology, 61, 368-381.
  • Hills, T. (2015). Crowdsourcing content creation in the classroom. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. Published online: DOI 10.1007/s12528-015-9089-2

Download open access versions of publications

Supervisor to:

Halleyson Li

Eugene Malthouse

Charlie Pilgrim