Efficient belief tracking in adults : The role of task instruction, low-level associative processes and dispositional social functioning

Meert, Gaëlle and Wang, Jen Jessica and Samson, Dana (2017) Efficient belief tracking in adults : The role of task instruction, low-level associative processes and dispositional social functioning. Cognition, 168. pp. 91-98. ISSN 0010-0277

[thumbnail of Meert Wang Samson 2017]
PDF (Meert Wang Samson 2017)
Meert_Wang_Samson_2017.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.

Download (872kB)


A growing body of evidence suggests that adults can monitor other people’s beliefs in an efficient way. However, the nature and the limits of efficient belief tracking are still being debated. The present study addressed these issues by testing (a) whether adults spontaneously process other people’s beliefs when overt task instructions assign priority to participants’ own belief, (b) whether this processing relies on low-level associative processes and (c) whether the propensity to track other people’s beliefs is linked to empathic disposition. Adult participants were asked to alternately judge an agent’s belief and their own belief. These beliefs were either consistent or inconsistent with each other. Furthermore, visual association between the agent and the object at which he was looking was either possible or impeded. Results showed interference from the agent’s belief when participants judged their own belief, even when low-level associations were impeded. This indicates that adults still process other people’s beliefs when priority is given to their own belief at the time of computation, and that this processing does not depend on low-level associative processes. Finally, performance on the belief task was associated with the Empathy Quotient and the Perspective Taking scale of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, indicating that efficient belief processing is linked to a dispositional dimension of social functioning.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Cognition. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Cognition, 168, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2017.06.012
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? social cognitionmentalisingbeliefself vs. otherlow-level associative processesempathylinguistics and languagecognitive neuroscienceexperimental and cognitive psychologylanguage and linguistics ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
05 Sep 2017 08:32
Last Modified:
31 Dec 2023 00:51