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What is belief reasoning? (And why do researchers from the “theory of mind” and social cognition traditions find it so hard to talk to each other?) Ian.

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Presentation on theme: "What is belief reasoning? (And why do researchers from the “theory of mind” and social cognition traditions find it so hard to talk to each other?) Ian."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is belief reasoning? (And why do researchers from the “theory of mind” and social cognition traditions find it so hard to talk to each other?) Ian Apperly University of Birmingham

2 Collaborators –Dana Samson –Elisa Back –Jason Braithwaite –Dan Carroll –Glyn Humphreys –Kevin Riggs –Andrew Simpson Funding –British Academy –Leverhulme Trust –ESRC –MRC

3 Overview Background Recent behavioural data on theory of mind in adults Observations, problems and questions about the link between theory of mind and social cognition

4 What is “Theory of Mind”? Folk psychology, mentalising, social cognition False belief tasks (e.g., Wimmer & Perner, 1983) –Ensure that participant must judge from other person’s point of view

5 Background on ToM We know a lot about development We know something about the cognitive and neural basis in adults Yet we know almost nothing about the basic operating characteristics of theory of mind processes –What kinds of mental representations? –Specialised versus generic functional and neural processes? –Automatic versus controlled processing? –What role in on-going cognitive activity (social cognition, communication)?

6 Why is it important to study ToM in adults? Neuroscience research –Consistent set of brain areas for a range of “mentalizing” tasks: “the ToM network” (Frith & Frith 2003) –What do they do? Temporo-parietal junction / pSTS Temporal pole Medial prefrontal cortex Lateral view TPJ TP Medial view mPFC

7 ToM (or “mentalizing”, or “perspective-taking”, “mind reading” etc…….) is not a unitary ability

8 ToM inferences Sometimes we must infer mental states

9 Non-inferential “holding in mind” Sometimes we are told what someone thinks (and should not confuse this with what we know) All George needs is the guiding hand of a trusted friend

10 ToM Use Well, I was caned in my time and I’ve concentrated all my life e.g., Interpreting what people say in terms of what they know Do you not think, Sir Rhodes, if you get caned in school you can’t concentrate? You was caned? Respect man, respect

11 Behavioural evidence that separates these ToM processes

12 Are ToM inferences automatic? Rationale: –In a situation where there is no particular reason to make ToM inferences, will the inferences nonetheless be made? Apperly, Riggs, Simpson, Chiavarino & Samson (2006) Psych. Sci.

13 Are ToM inferences Automatic? Apperly, Riggs, Simpson, Chiavarino & Samson (2006) Psych. Sci. Condition 1: Monitor Reality Is belief monitored too? Condition 2: Track Reality and Belief Condition 3: Track Belief

14 Behavioural evidence that separates these ToM processes ToM inferences are not automatic: They require cognitive control But this may not always be true

15 Automatic perspective taking? (Samson, Apperly, Braithwaite & Andrews, submitted) You / He 2 2 Self / Other Consistent Self / Other Inconsistent Disc position varies 1,2, or 3 discs

16 Automatic perspective taking? Main effect of consistency Significant interaction RT (ms) Egocentric interference

17 Automatic perspective taking? Main effect of consistency Significant interaction RT (ms) Altercentric interference

18 Behavioural evidence that separates these ToM processes ToM inferences may not be automatic: They sometimes require cognitive control

19 Non-inferential ToM: The cost of holding false beliefs in mind Apperly, Back, Samson & French (2007), Cognition. Rationale: Tell participants what the target character thinks Measure difficulty of making judgements about this information

20 False belief + reality Unrelated belief + reality Non-inferential ToM: The cost of holding false beliefs in mind Apperly, Back, Samson & French (2007), Cognition. Rationale: Tell participants what the target character thinks Measure difficulty of making judgements about this

21 Processing Efficiency (RT/Proportion Correct) * * * ~ Non-inferential ToM: The cost of holding false beliefs in mind Apperly, Back, Samson & French (2007), Cognition.

22 Behavioural evidence that separates these ToM processes ToM inferences may not be automatic: They sometimes require cognitive control To “hold in mind” a false belief we must resist interference from what we know (and vice versa)

23 ToM Use Rationale –Very easy ToM inference –Can this inference be used to guide interpretation of speech? –E.g., Keysar, Lin & Barr (2003) Apperly, Carroll, Samson & Humphreys (under submission).

24 Instructor: Experimental

25 Instructor: Control

26 No-instructor: Experimental

27 Average number of errors ToM Use Apperly, Carroll, Samson & Humphreys (under submission).

28 Behavioural evidence that separates these ToM processes ToM inferences may not be automatic: They sometimes require cognitive control To “hold in mind” a false belief we must resist interference from what we know (and vice versa) Using ToM information can be a difficult task-set to maintain

29 Cognitive and neural Basis of ToM –ToM is not one function, and is unlikely to have a simple neural substrate or simple patterns of impairment Neuroscience research –Consistent set of brain areas for a range of “mentalizing” tasks: “the ToM network” (Frith & Frith 2003) –What do they do? Temporo-parietal junction / pSTS Temporal pole Medial prefrontal cortex Lateral view TPJ TP Medial view mPFC

30 ToM processing model: (after Leslie, 1992, 2005) ToMM Observed Behaviour Modular: Fast, automatic, domain-specific…. SP “Executive selection”: Slow? Controlled? Domain-General?

31 (after Shallice & Burgess, 1996)

32 Cognitive and neural Basis of ToM –ToM is not one function, and is unlikely to have a simple neural substrate or simple patterns of impairment –Need to be more precise when asking about the neural basis of “mentalising” Neuroscience research –Consistent set of brain areas for a range of “mentalizing” tasks: “the ToM network” (Frith & Frith 2003) –What do they do? Temporo-parietal junction / pSTS Temporal pole Medial prefrontal cortex Lateral view TPJ TP Medial view mPFC

33 Cognitive and neural Basis of ToM –ToM is not one function, and is unlikely to have a simple neural substrate or simple patterns of impairment –Need to be more precise when asking about the neural basis of “mentalising” –Important role for cognitive control processes –Understanding ToM will require more than understanding the functional and neural basis of ToM-specific processes –Some of the “social network” may be concerned with control processes –Some processes critical for ToM are almost certainly subtracted out in existing analyses –Caution when interpreting meta-analyses of imaging data Neuroscience research –Consistent set of brain areas for a range of “mentalizing” tasks: “the ToM network” (Frith & Frith 2003) –What do they do? Temporo-parietal junction / pSTS Temporal pole Medial prefrontal cortex Lateral view TPJ TP Medial view mPFC

34 The relation between ToM and social cognition traditions “Beliefs” in the ToM tradition are usually transitory states closely linked to epistemic access But enduring beliefs surely play a similar causal role in explaining and predicting behaviour –“Transitory versus enduring” is an important dimension –I’m not sure if it can discriminate different kinds of mental states in a clear way

35 The relation between ToM and social cognition traditions The ToM tradition studies beliefs as the causal consequences of epistemic access. Any rational, sentient agent will have such beliefs. –Contrast with social cognition tradition which tends to see beliefs as characteristics of the target - the “kind of person” they are –Target characteristics are irrelevant for typical ToM problems –Self-other similarity is irrelevant to these typical ToM problems Is it nonetheless an influence?

36 The relation between ToM and social cognition traditions Self-reflection and projection (or egocentric anchoring and adjustment) are possible but not necessary processes in ToM reasoning –We can make ToM judgements even when we don’t have to infer hidden mental states, when we don’t know reality and when we don’t care about the content of the mental state

37 Cognitive and neural Basis of ToM Clever new methods + Careful task analysis = plenty of interesting work Neuroscience research –Consistent set of brain areas for a range of “mentalizing” tasks: “the ToM network” (Frith & Frith 2003) –What do they do? Temporo-parietal junction / pSTS Temporal pole Medial prefrontal cortex Lateral view TPJ TP Medial view mPFC

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45 Functional and neural processes specific to ToM? Step 1: Simpler tasks with tighter controls –Very short stories –False belief vs. False photograph – identifies similar range of regions to earlier studies Step 2: Which regions respond only to ToM stimuli?

46 Functional and neural processes specific to ToM? Step 1: Simpler tasks with tighter controls –Very short stories –False belief vs. False photograph – identifies similar range of regions to earlier studies Step 2: Which regions respond only to ToM-related stimuli? Left hemisphere L-TPJ Right hemisphere R-TPJ Responds selectively for thinking about beliefs, desires, intentions Not for people’s appearance or background social information, ( Saxe & Kanwisher, 2003; Saxe & Wexler, 2005) or non-social perspective- taking (e.g., Perner et al. 2006) Responds selectively for thinking about false beliefs and non- social perspective- taking (e.g., Perner et al. 2006)

47 So what have we found? Perspective-taking in left-TPJ? –(Perner et al. 2006) ToM is specific to right-TPJ and is independent of processes for inhibition and cognitive control? –(e.g., Saxe, Carey & Kanwisher, 2004) We can accept that these findings are informative, but still think that other processes are equally interesting and equally necessary for ToM


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