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Seeing the world through others’ minds: inferring social context from behaviour

Teoh, Yvonne; Wallis, Emma; Stephen, Ian D.; Mitchell, Peter

Authors

Yvonne Teoh

Emma Wallis

Ian D. Stephen

Peter Mitchell



Abstract

Past research tells us that individuals can infer information about a target’s emotional state and intentions from their facial expressions (Frith & Frith, 2012), a process known as mentalising. This extends to inferring the events that caused the facial reaction (e.g. Pillai, Sheppard, & Mitchell, 2012; Pillai et al., 2014), an ability known as retrodictive mindreading. Here, we enter new territory by investigating whether or not people (perceivers) can guess a target’s social context by observing their response to stimuli. In Experiment 1, perceivers viewed targets’ responses and were able to determine whether these targets were alone or observed by another person. In Experiment 2, another group of perceivers, without any knowledge of the social context or what the targets were watching, judged whether targets were hiding or exaggerating their facial expressions; and their judgments discriminated between conditions in which targets were observed and alone. Experiment 3 established that another group of perceivers’ judgments of social context were associated with estimations of target expressivity to some degree. In Experiments 1 and 2, the eye movements of perceivers also varied between conditions in which targets were observed and alone. Perceivers were thus able to infer a target’s social context from their visible response. The results demonstrate an ability to use other minds as a window onto a social context that could not be seen directly.

Citation

Teoh, Y., Wallis, E., Stephen, I. D., & Mitchell, P. (2017). Seeing the world through others’ minds: inferring social context from behaviour. Cognition, 159, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2016.11.003

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 13, 2016
Online Publication Date Nov 23, 2016
Publication Date Feb 28, 2017
Deposit Date Dec 9, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 9, 2016
Journal Cognition
Print ISSN 0010-0277
Electronic ISSN 1873-7838
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 159
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2016.11.003
Keywords Mentalising; Social context; Eye movements; Inferences; Retrodiction
Public URL http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/39296
Publisher URL http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027716302694
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0

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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0





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