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25-04-2019 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2020

Psychological Research 6/2020

Attribution of vision and knowledge in ‘spontaneous perspective taking’

Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2020
Abbie C. Millett, Antonia D. C. D’Souza, Geoff G. Cole
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Theory of mind is a ubiquitous notion that permeates many aspects of social cognition. A recent application has been in the context of ‘spontaneous perspective taking’ in which responses to target stimuli are facilitated if a human agent, present in a display, sees the same stimuli as an experimental participant. In the present work, we replicated results from a paradigm purporting to show such perspective taking in which participants tend to judge an ambiguous number from the position of an agent. We find, however (in Experiment 1) that this effect still occurs even when the agent cannot see the number due to an occluding object. This, therefore, does not support the perspective-taking hypothesis. An alternative explanation to the theory of mind account is posited in which the agent acts as a reference point that cues the observer to view the critical stimuli from that position and in the direction to which the agent faces. We test this hypothesis in Experiments 2 and 3, and show that non-human reference points can generate perspective-taking-like data. Overall, these results do not support the theory of mind account of previous studies.

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