ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (8): 1039-1049.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2015.01039

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Perspective Taking: Making Inferences Based on Oneself and Related Individual Differences

WANG Yuqing1; YOU Xuqun1; JIAO Jian2; CHEN Pengfei3   

  1. (1 School of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China) (2 Department of Psychology, Northeast Normal University, Chang chun 130000, China) (3 Center for Teacher Professional Ability Development, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China)
  • Received:2014-12-19 Published:2015-08-25 Online:2015-08-25
  • Contact: YOU Xuqun, E-mail:; WANG Yuqing, E-mail:


One remarkable feature of our social ability is that we are not only able to reason about our own mental states, but also have some insights into others' mental life. Our awareness of our own and other?s perspectives as well as our ability to shift between the two are fundamental processes in guiding how to people interact with each other. One question that interests researchers is how perspective taking is achieved when inferring what others are seeing, feeling, wanting, or thinking in situations where they themselves hold a different point of view. Being able to put their own perspective aside is thus a fundamental facet of our ability to read other people’s minds. Previous studies have shown that participants can not easily ignore what others see when making self-perspective judgments, or resist interference from one’s own perspectives. It would be helpful to understand the mechanism of Theory of Mind by exploring how people judge their own or others perspectives and the related individual differences. One hundred college students (50 males and 50 females)were selected as participants, with half of them majoring in liberal art and the other half in science. In two visual perspective-taking experiments, participants were asked to judge their own or someone else’s visual perspective in situations where the two perspectives were either the same or different. In Experiment 1, trials in which participants had to judge their own perspectives and trials in which they had to judge the other’s perspectives were mixed within the same block. In Experiment 2, trials in which participants had to judge their own perspectives and trials in which they had to judge the other’s perspectives were in separated blocks to help reduce interference from taking the other’s perspectives when it was unnecessary to do so. The results showed that: (1) Participants can not easily ignore what they themselves saw when taking other's perspectives judgments. This was observed even when participants were only required to take the other's perspectives within the same block of trials (Experiment 2) under the condition that it was unnecessary to do so. (2) Participants were more efficient in judging their own self perspectives than taking other's perspectives. (3) Men and women showed no gender differences when they judged their own perspectives. However, men were significantly slower than women when take other’s perspectives. Arts students were lower than students majoring in science whenever judging their own perspectives or taking others' perspectives. In summary, these results suggest that adults make use of more rapid and efficient processes to judge their own perspective than judging what other people see. Some results were different from those provided by Samson et al. (2010), which possibly suggests that the fast and efficient calculation of what the other people see is unlikely certain, that is, it may depend on some other factors, such as culture, gender and participants’ background. These findings provide further evidence for understanding the reasoning mechanism of the theory of mind.

Key words: theory of mind, perspective taking, social cognition, self, individual differences