27 June: Cathleen O’Grady

The dot perspective task revisited: Do we automatically process what other people see?

Cathleen O’Grady (Edinburgh)

Tuesday 27 June 2017, 11:00–12:30
1.17 Dugald Stewart Building

The ability to reason about other individuals’ mental states (“mindreading”) is thought to be a central component of social cognition in humans, and particularly essential for language. In order for mindreading to be useful in social interaction, it seems necessary that it is also highly efficient. Samson et al.’s (2010) dot perspective task (DPT) provides evidence that taking another individual’s visual perspective (a very simple form of mindreading) is both rapid and involuntary.

However, variants of the DPT suggest that the task’s headline effect is due not to perspective-taking, but rather to simpler processes that do not entail mindreading. In this talk, I will discuss these competing explanations, and present a new variant of the task that replicates the central finding of the DPT, but suggests that involuntary perspective-taking is not the best explanation for this effect. I will argue that the non-mentalistic account of the DPT may still be useful for understanding the apparent role of mindreading in communication.