The effect of social role on theory of mind reasoning
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The aim of this project was to explore the effects of social status on Theory of Mind (ToM) reasoning. Neurologically normal adults' ToM performance was manipulated experimentally by temporarily putting them in a higher or lower status condition. Half the participants 'won' a mock competition and subsequently acted as instructor and evaluator. The other half 'lost' and subsequently acted as learner. Participants then completed ToM and control tasks including embedded false belief tasks and cartoon comprehension tasks. The hypothesis tested was that social role manipulation could affect performance on ToM tasks independently of any effect on control tasks. Results show an interaction between assigned status and task type. That performance on theory of mind tasks can vary independently of performance on matched control tasks is consistent with the idea that ToM reasoning can change as a result of a change in social status.
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