During her undergraduate career, Emily Thornton achieved a stellar grade point average while also actively engaging in psychology research.


Psychology’s Emily Thornton graduates with Dean's medal and multiple publications under her belt

June 09, 2020

Psychology has been a big part of Emily Thornton’s life for as long as she could remember. She is the daughter of parents who are also professors of psychology and grew up around psychology-specific terminology. When she was young, her parents would often discuss concepts such as “theory of mind” and “cognitive distortions” – which naturally sparked her curiosity to learn more about the brain and behavior.

“As a young girl, I knew psychology was my calling – and I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue this calling at SFU”.

Beginning her studies at SFU, Thornton quickly got involved in research labs in the department. She first became involved with Lara Aknin’s Helping and Happiness Lab as a volunteer research assistant in 2016. Since being promoted to lab manager, Thornton has published two first-authored research papers in PLOS One. In her first article, Thornton and her collaborators investigated whether people’s perceptions of taxes influenced how they felt about taxation. Meanwhile, her recent publication and honours thesis examined the validity of a novel measure of implicit prosocial attitudes.

Additionally, she has been working as a research assistant in Marlene Moretti’s Adolescent Health Lab since 2018.

Thornton is graduating with a BA Hons with a major in psychology, and is the recipient of 2020 Deans’ Undergraduate Convocation Medal. This prestigious medal awards a graduating student from each faculty whose cumulative grade point average places them in the top five percent of the class. Thornton and fellow psychology graduate Jonathan Mendel are the two award recipients representing the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

When asked what has been key to her successes during her undergraduate career, Thornton emphasizes that it is important for students to set themselves up for success whenever possible.

“Don’t take a full course load all year round if you want to pursue something on the side; like research or a hobby. Take school at your own pace to maximize your chances of success and minimize your chances of burnout.”

With the completion of her degree, Thornton plans to take a year off to focus on research and to travel after the pandemic. After this, she plans to complete a graduate program in Clinical Psychology with a focus on developmental psychopathology.