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Theory of mind affects the interpretation of another person's focus of attention.

Dawson, Jessica and Kingstone, Alan and Foulsham, Tom (2021) 'Theory of mind affects the interpretation of another person's focus of attention.' Scientific Reports, 11 (1). 17147-. ISSN 2045-2322

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Abstract

People are drawn to social, animate things more than inanimate objects. Previous research has also shown gaze following in humans, a process that has been linked to theory of mind (ToM). In three experiments, we investigated whether animacy and ToM are involved when making judgements about the location of a cursor in a scene. In Experiment 1, participants were told that this cursor represented the gaze of an observer and were asked to decide whether the observer was looking at a target object. This task is similar to that carried out by researchers manually coding eye-tracking data. The results showed that participants were biased to perceive the gaze cursor as directed towards animate objects (faces) compared to inanimate objects. In Experiments 2 and 3 we tested the role of ToM, by presenting the same scenes to new participants but now with the statement that the cursor was generated by a 'random' computer system or by a computer system designed to seek targets. The bias to report that the cursor was directed toward faces was abolished in Experiment 2, and minimised in Experiment 3. Together, the results indicate that people attach minds to the mere representation of an individual's gaze, and this attribution of mind influences what people believe an individual is looking at.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Humans; Eye Movements; Social Behavior; Attention; Adult; Female; Male; Theory of Mind
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health
Faculty of Science and Health > Psychology, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2021 13:14
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:26
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/31735

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