Ayanna Kim Thomas

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Ayanna Kim Thomas
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CitizenshipUnited States of America
Alma mater
  • Wesleyan University
  • University of Washington
  • Scientist
  • Author
  • Cognitive researcher

Ayanna Kim Thomas is an American scientist, author, and Cognitive Scientist. Her research centers on the intersection of memory and aging, particularly as those fields relate to brain and cognitive science.[1]

As of 2021, Thomas is the Dean of Research of the Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University and has held the rank of Professor of Psychology since 2007. From 2016 to 2021, Thomas served as the Director of the PhD Program in Cognitive Science at Tufts University.[2] In 2019, Thomas made history as the first BIPOC Woman to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Memory & Cognition since the journal's inception in 1973.

In her work at the Cognitive Aging and Memory Lab (CAML), Thomas explores the reconstructive nature of memory, particulary the subjective experience that accompanies memories. Her research encompasses metacognition, memory distortion, eyewitness memory, and age-related changes in memory.[3] Ayanna Thomas is lauded as a pioneer in the fields of memory and aging and has authored a number of highly cited publications.[4]

Early life

Thomas grew up in New York and attended Catholic school. She later attended Bronx High School of Science.

Academic background

Ayanna Thomas received her B.A. in African American studies and Psychology from Wesleyan University in 1996 and went on to earn her PhD in Psychology from the University of Washington in 2001. She then completed her post-doctoral work as a National Institute on Aging (NIA) Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis in 2004. Over her career, Thomas has produced nearly 70 peer-reviewed publications and has published in the Cambridge University Press with the release of The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Aging: A Life Course Perspective.[5]

Her journey to professorship began as a Research Scientist at Washington University in 2004 and transitioned to Assistant Professor at Colby College in the Department of Psychology. In 2007, Thomas would become an Assistant Professor at Tufts University where she would remain before receiving an invitation as Visiting Professor at the Temuco University of La Frontera in 2017. In 2019, Thomas was invited to be a Visiting Professor at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, France. In 2019, Thomas was promoted from Associate Professor to Professor at the Tufts University Department of Psychology where she currently remains. Concurrently, Thomas operates as a Consultant for Charles River Analytics, an analytics firm headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Thomas is a founding member of The SPARK Society which is devoted to increasing representation in cognitive sciences for underrepresented minorities. Thomas also continued this mission of increasing access for underrepresented scholars in psychology as a founding member of the inaugural Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee at the Tufts University Department of Psychology.[6]

Achievements and awards

Thomas is a recipient of the American Psychological Association Dalmas Taylor Award, a Neubauer Faculty Fellow, an APA Minority Research Fellow, Psychonomic Society Fellow, and a McNair Fellow. She is also affiliated with the invitation-only Memory Disorders Research Society, The Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, the American Psychology–Law Society, and the Association for Women in Psychology.

At the university level, Thomas has championed for scholarship and equity on nearly 40 committees and colloquiums for over 17 years. She also serves as a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the DFG German Research Foundation. Thomas has also reviewed for a number of notable journals including Memory, American Journal of Psychology, the European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, and Psychological Science. In 2019, Thomas was appointed as editor-in-chief of a special edition of the academic journal, Brain and Cognition. She is currently the editor-in-chief for the academic journal Memory & Cognition.

Thomas has chaired the organization team of the Society of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition and on the program committee for the same honor. She also sits on the Hughes Committee at the University of Denver School of Law and serves as President and Treasurer of the SPARK Society.

Ayanna Thomas has been featured as a memory expert for several organizations including PBS[7], I Am a Scientist, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, multiple television productions, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


  1. Thomas, A. K., & Millar, P. R. (2012). Reducing the framing effect in older and younger adults by encouraging analytic processing. Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 67(2), 139-149. Chicago
  2. "Announcing Ayanna Thomas as next Dean of Research for Arts and Sciences | School of Arts and Sciences". as.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  3. Home. Cognitive Memory and Aging Laboratory at Tufts University. (2020, August 10). http://www.thomas-camlab.org/.
  4. Thomas, A.K., Loftus, E.F. Creating bizarre false memories through imagination. Memory & Cognition30, 423–431 (2002). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03194942
  5. Thomas, A.; Gutchess, A., eds. (2020). The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Aging: A Life Course Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108552684.
  6. "Home | Department of Psychology". as.tufts.edu. Retrieved 2021-08-04.
  7. https://facultyprofiles.tufts.edu/ayanna-thomas/professional

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