Background: Theory of mind (ToM), the ability to understand that others have different knowledge and beliefs to ourselves, has been the subject of extensive research which suggests that we are not always efficient at taking another’s perspective, known as visual perspective taking (VPT). This has been studied extensively and a growing literature has explored the individual-level factors that may affect perspective taking (e.g., empathy and group membership). However, while emotion and (dis) liking are key aspects within everyday social interaction, research has not hitherto explored how these factors may impact ToM. Method: A total of 164 participants took part in a modified director task (31 males (19%), M age = 20.65, SD age = 5.34), exploring how correct object selection may be impacted by another’s emotion (director facial emotion; neutral x happy x sad) and knowledge of their (dis) likes (i.e., director likes specific objects). Result: When the director liked the target object or disliked the competitor object, accuracy rates were increased relative to when he disliked the target object or liked the competitor object. When the emotion shown by the director was incongruent with their stated (dis) liking of an object (e.g., happy when he disliked an object), accuracy rates were also increased. None of these effects were significant in the analysis of response time. These findings suggest that knowledge of liking may impact ToM use, as can emotional incongruency, perhaps by increasing the saliency of perspective differences between participant and director. Conclusion: As well as contributing further to our understanding of real-life social interactions, these findings may have implications for ToM research, where it appears that more consideration of the target/director’s characteristics may be prudent.
- theory of mind
- perspective taking