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Listeners' eyes reveal spontaneous sensitivity to others' perspectives

Ferguson, Heather J., Breheny, Richard (2012) Listeners' eyes reveal spontaneous sensitivity to others' perspectives. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 . pp. 257-263. ISSN 0022-1031. (doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.08.007) (KAR id:28061)


During everyday social interactions, we typically anticipate (or explain) others’ behaviour according to their current mental states (e.g. their knowledge, beliefs and intentions). To date, very little is known about the time-course with which such perspective information influences communication. We report a novel interactive ‘visual world’ study examining these processes. Here, two communicators watched videos depicting transfer events and subsequently described these events to each other. Critically, on half the trials a screen blocked the speakers’ (but not the listeners’) view part-way through the video, establishing a discrepancy in the knowledge held by the two communicators. Eye-tracking analyses showed that listeners were rapidly sensitive to their partner’s perspective, as evidenced by a significantly reduced reality-bias when speakers held out-of-date knowledge about a privileged transfer event. However, we also found that under these conditions, listeners suffered ongoing interference from their own knowledge of reality, which inhibited successful anticipation of the speaker’s intended referents.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.08.007
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council (
Depositing User: Heather Ferguson
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2011 14:38 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:40 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Ferguson, Heather J..

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