Theory of mind is the ability to understand others’ beliefs, mental states and knowledge. Perspective-taking is a key part of this capacity and while previous research has suggested that calculating another’s perspective is relatively straightforward, executive function is required to resolve the conflict between the self and that other perspective. Previous studies have shown that theory of mind is selectively impaired by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). However, it has been hitherto unclear as to which specific aspect of perspective-taking is impacted. The current study administered rTMS (N = 31 adult participants) to the DLPFC (active condition) and vertex (control condition) in a within-subjects design. Participants completed a L1 VPT task after each stimulation session, and focus (relative performance on self perspective trials compared to other perspective trials) and conflict indices (relative ability to resolve competing self/other perspectives) were calculated. Results showed that stimulation of the DLPFC selectively impaired the conflict index, suggesting that the DLPFC may be causally related with the resolution of conflict between self and other perspectives, and that self-other interference may rely on domain-general processes.
- Visual perspective-taking
- Theory of mind
- executive function
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex