Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

On the Relation between Spontaneous Perspective Taking and Other Visuospatial Processes

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

On the Relation between Spontaneous Perspective Taking and Other Visuospatial Processes

Article excerpt

Abstract Common processes and representations engaged by visuospatial tasks were investigated by looking at four frequently used visuospatial research paradigms, the aim being to contribute to a better understanding of which specific processes are addressed in the different paradigms compared. In particular, the relation between spontaneous and instructed perspective taking, as well as mental rotation of body-part/non-body-part objects, was investigated. To this end, participants watched animations that have been shown to lead to spontaneous perspective taking. While they were watching these animations, participants were asked to explicitly adopt another perspective (Experiment 1), perform a mental object rotation task that involved a nonbody- part object (Experiment 2), or perform a mental rotation of a body-part object (Experiment 3). Patterns of interference between the tasks, reflected in the reaction time patterns, showed that spontaneous and instructed perspective taking rely on similar representational elements to encode orientation. By contrast, no such overlap was found between spontaneous perspective taking and the rotation of non-body-part objects. Also, no overlap in orientation representation was evident with mental body-part rotations. Instead of an overlap in orientation representations, the results suggest that spontaneous perspective taking and the mental rotation of body parts rely on similar-presumably, motor-processes. These findings support the view that motor processes are involved in perspective taking and mental rotation of body parts.

Keywords Embodied cognition . Social cognition . Mental models

Adequate social behavior nearly always requires the ability to appreciate that a given situation is perceived and interpreted differently by different people involved. Imagine a football game in which the players did not constantly monitor what other players and the referee could see and how a dive would be interpreted. Or think of situations in which people judge whether or not an approaching car is seen by a child-an ability that can save a life. Because representing how others perceive a given situation is so frequently encountered in, and so important for, social life, it is not surprising that people spontaneously adopt the perspective of others during conversations (Clark & Krych, 2004).

Spontaneous perspective adoption is also found in experimental paradigms involving visual stimuli of persons (Belopolsky, Olivers, & Theeuwes, 2008; Frischen, Loach, & Tipper, 2009; Samson, Apperly, Braithwaite, Andrews, & Scott, 2010; Thirioux, Jorland, Bret, Tramus, & Berthoz, 2009; Tversky & Hard, 2009; Zwickel & Müller, 2010). What is more, people even adopt the perspective of geometrical shapes if the movement of the shapes appears intentional (Zwickel, 2009). Surprisingly, the relationship of this spontaneous perspective taking (SPT) to processes engaged when people are explicitly instructed to adopt a certain perspective (instructed perspective taking, IPT) or to mentally rotate objects has as yet received little attention.

Traditionally, IPT, SPT, and mental object rotation have been investigated employing different paradigms-potentially obscuring the fact that all of these visuospatial tasks might be related. In this study, we distinguish between two ways in which tasks can be related: Tasks can be related in terms of underlying processes or representations. For example, when one imagines a perspective rotation of oneself, processes might be involved that are similar to those involved in a situation in which spontaneous perspective taking occurs without one being instructed to do so. These processes operate on representations that can be similar (e.g., representations of different human bodies) or dissimilar (e.g., representations of a human body and a nonliving object).

Importantly, common processes and common representations give rise to different patterns of interference. …

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