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From Self to Social Cognition: Theory of Mind Mechanisms and their Relation to Executive Functioning

Bradford, Elisabeth E.F., Jentzsch, Ines, Gomez, Juan-Carlos (2015) From Self to Social Cognition: Theory of Mind Mechanisms and their Relation to Executive Functioning. Cognition, 138 . pp. 21-34. ISSN 0010-0277. E-ISSN 1873-7838. (doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2015.02.001) (KAR id:62437)

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‘Theory of Mind’ refers to the ability to attribute mental states to oneself and other people (Premack & Woodruff, 1978). This study examined the extent to which ‘Self’ and ‘Other’ belief-attribution processes within the Theory of Mind (ToM) mechanism could be distinguished behaviourally, and whether these separable components differentially related to Executive Functioning (EF) abilities. A computerized false-belief task, utilizing a matched-design to allow direct comparison of self-oriented vs. other-oriented belief-attribution, was used to assess ToM, and a face-image Stroop task was employed to assess EF, within a population of typically-developed adults. Results revealed significantly longer reaction times when attributing beliefs to other people as opposed to recognizing and attributing beliefs to oneself. Intriguingly, results revealed that ‘perspective-shift’ requirements (i.e. changing from adoption of the ‘self’ perspective to the perspective of the ‘other’, or vice versa) across false-belief trials influenced reaction times. Reaction times were significantly longer when the perspective shift was from self-to-other than from other-to-self. It is suggested that the ‘self’ forms the stem of understanding the ‘other’, and is therefore processed regardless of ultimate task demands; in contrast, the ‘other’ perspective is only processed when explicitly required. We conclude that adopting another person’s perspective, even when their belief state is matched to one’s own, requires more cognitive effort than recalling and reflecting on self-oriented belief-states.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.02.001
Uncontrolled keywords: Theory of Mind, False-Belief, Belief Attribution, Social Cognition
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Lizzie Bradford
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2017 15:59 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:47 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Bradford, Elisabeth E.F.:
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