ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (6): 990-999.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00990

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Perspective taking and its cognitive mechanism in language processing

SUI Xue, SHI Hanwen, LI Yutong()   

  1. School of Psychology, Liaoning Normal University, Dalian 116029, China
  • Received:2020-09-25 Online:2021-06-15 Published:2021-04-25
  • Contact: LI Yutong


Perspective taking refers to the mental process in which an individual image or speculates the views and attitudes of others from the perspective of others or their situation. Verbal communication is a cooperative behavior. When people get together to communicate, everyone has their own unique life experience, beliefs and background knowledge. The communicator needs to consider the partner's point of view to understand the meaning of the expression, and adjust his own language expression to achieve effective communication. Perspective taking affects the language content that the communicator chooses to express: from the syntactic structure, specific vocabulary, to the expression form of lexical rhythm. An influential experimental paradigm for studying perspective taking called the referential communication task. In order to measure perspective taking, the research mainly focused on the speaker’s referential expression and the listener’s real-time interpretation of the referential expression. The number of researches on perspective taking is gradually increasing, and the research results have proved that perspective taking can contribute to language understanding and expression among communicators. But whether individuals can completely consider the problem from the perspective of others in communication, whether the perspective taking behavior is affected by egocentrism, whether the egocentrism will increase the cost of communication, and whether the egocentrism bias of perspective taking is affected by the presence of others. The above issues are still unclear. The research on the role of perspective taking in language processing mainly includes the role of perspective taking in language understanding and the role of perspective taking in language production. The study found that individuals can consider the communicator’s knowledge level, and can also distinguish between privileged ground and common ground in the process of language production and understanding. The mutual recognition of knowledge among individuals is called common ground, and the information that only one of them can obtain is called privileged ground. However, some studies have found that individuals often show egocentrism, and fail to completely process other people’s language expression from the perspective of others. Different theories are trying to explain these contradictory results. There are two mainstream theoretical explanations for perspective taking. One of these theories suggested that perspective taking is a by-product of the individual’s general processing, and the other theory holds that perspective taking is a result of prediction, which is generated by the individual's calculation of various information. Both theories are supported by corresponding evidence, but there is a situation in which both theories cannot explain certain perspective taking phenomena. This article first sorts out the current research on perspective taking, then reviews the related theories of the cognitive mechanism of perspective taking, and finally looks forward to future research based on the unresolved problems of existing research. A review of relevant studies found that: (1) Whether there is egocentrism bias in perspective taking is still controversial; (2) The egocentrism bias of perspective taking does not always exist, which may be due to the time pressure and the requirement of specific types of tasks; (3) The presence of others affects the egocentrism of perspective taking, and the effect is automatic and independent of task type; (4) The cognitive mechanism of perspective taking mainly includes interactive alignment, memory extraction and probability calculation. Future research needs: (1) Integration of the existing computational models; (2) To further explore the relationship between perspective taking ability and Theory of Mind; (3) Explore the role of private information in the perspective taking; (4) To improve the ecological validity of opinion selection research; (5) Using different technical means for convergence verification.

Key words: language processing, perspective taking, cognitive mechanism

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