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Error analyses reveal contrasting deficits in “theory of mind”: neuropsychological evidence from a 3-option false belief task

Samson, Dana; Apperly, Ian A.; Humphreys, Glyn W.


Dana Samson

Ian A. Apperly

Glyn W. Humphreys


Perspective taking is a crucial ability that guides our social interactions. In this study, we show how the specific patterns of errors of brain-damaged patients in perspective taking tasks can help us further understand the factors contributing to perspective taking abilities. Previous work (e.g., Samson, Apperly, Chiavarino, & Humphreys, 2004; Samson, Apperly, Kathirgamanathan, & Humphreys, 2005) distinguished two components of perspective taking: the ability to inhibit our own perspective and the ability to infer someone else’s perspective. We assessed these components using a new nonverbal false belief task which provided different response options to detect three types of response strategies that participants might be using: a complete and spared belief reasoning strategy, a reality-based response selection strategy in which participants respond from their own perspective, and a simplified mentalising strategy in which participants avoid responding from their own perspective but rely on inaccurate cues to infer the other person’s belief. One patient, with a self-perspective inhibition deficit, almost always used the reality-based response strategy; in contrast, the other patient, with a deficit in taking other perspectives, tended to use the simplified mentalising strategy without necessarily transposing her own perspective. We discuss the extent to which the pattern of performance of both patients could relate to their executive function deficit and how it can inform us on the cognitive and neural components involved in belief reasoning.


Samson, D., Apperly, I. A., & Humphreys, G. W. (2007). Error analyses reveal contrasting deficits in “theory of mind”: neuropsychological evidence from a 3-option false belief task. Neuropsychologia, 45(11),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2007
Deposit Date Aug 15, 2008
Publicly Available Date Aug 15, 2008
Journal Neuropsychologia
Print ISSN 0028-3932
Electronic ISSN 0028-3932
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 11
Keywords social cognition; theory of mind; perspective taking; false belief; frontal lobe; temporo-parietal junction
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