When another person’s perspective interferes with one’s own: Evidence for automatic spatial perspective taking

Xuan ZhaoBrown University, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.
Bertram MalleBrown University, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S.

Abstract

People can adopt someone else’s spatial perspective and judge whether an object is on the person’s left or right. Such level-2 perspective taking has been considered effortful, but our studies find evidence for automatic perspective taking and reveal some conditions of this automaticity. Participants watched videos showing four objects on a square table and an agent sitting somewhere around the table. Agents were either (1) merely present, (2) gazed at, or (3) reached for a random object. Encouraged to ignore the agent, participants made speeded judgments of whether an object was on their own left/right. On congruent trials the correct answer was the same for self and other; on incongruent trials it was opposite. Self-perspective judgments were slower and more erroneous on incongruent trials, indicating an other-to-self interference and thus automatic perspective taking—but most strongly for the reach condition, partially for the gaze condition, and not for the mere-presence condition.

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