Understanding the Two Forms of Visuo-Spatial Perspective Taking: I know what you can see versus I see the world through your eyes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Psychology

Abstract

This grant aims to distinguish between two forms of visuo-spatial perspective taking (PT). While one form, which Flavell and colleagues (1986) have termed level-1, reflects understanding of what lies within someone else's line of sight, level-2
involves imagining oneself in someone else's spatial point of view for understanding how their* world looks like.



This research is important, because PT is a conscious mental transformation that is cnxially placed at the convergence of perception, mental imagery, collaborative actions, and communication, and deficiencies have been reported in Autism
Spectrum Disorder (eg Hamilton et al., 2009). Understanding perspective taking in neuro-cognitive detail in adults will therefore inform research on typical and atypical cognitive development of mutual understanding.



The Investigators' previous behavioural research had revealed that level-2 PT is a mental simulation of a body rotation - in other words, an embodied process (Kessler & Thomson, 2010). Yet littie is known about level-1 PT in ttiis respect. By using
Magnetoencephalography (MEG) the Investigators will be able to unravel how the two forms of PT differ in terms of their cortical representation (which brain areas?), activation time course (when does activity dffer?), and frequency (which brain
oscillations differ?).


Publications


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Brunyé T (2012) Gender and autistic personality traits predict perspective-taking ability in typical adults in Personality and Individual Differences





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Kessler K (2014) A cross-culture, cross-gender comparison of perspective taking mechanisms. in Proceedings. Biological sciences




 
Description Our findings suggest that the two levels of perspective taking (VPT-1: "I know what you can- and cannot see", VPT-2: "I know how the world looks like from your viewpoint") are subserved by two very different default mechanisms (Kessler & Rutherford, 2010). While VPT-1 relies on simple judgements about what lies within another's line of sight (LoS), VPT-2 requires the simulation of a body rotation into another's viewpoint (eSR).

Recruitment of these mechanisms is general and independent of response modality, i.e. verbal localisations vs. spatially mapped key-presses. Furthermore, both mechanisms generalise in principle across genders and cultures, yet, with systematic variations in relation to social skills and egocentric bias as reported in Kessler et al. (2014) and Kessler and Wang (2012). We found that genders are more different in western culture than in Chinese culture and that Chinese are faster VPT-1 perspective takers and show for VPT-1 an other-oriented bias in contrast to an egocentric bias in Westerners.

MEG investigations (Wang et al., subm.) revealed that theta brain oscillations were more strongly modulated in the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) during eSR and in relation to proprioceptive, embodied as well as cognitive aspects of VPT-2 processing, suggesting TPJ as the locus where the observer's embodied mind is aligned with another's. We have now confirmed this role of right TPJ by means of a further TMS study (Wang et al., 2016) This was corroborated in a further MEG study (Boegels et al., 2014) that employed a live communication game where a speaker broke previously established naming conventions, thus, requiring the listener to engage VPT-2 for explaining the sudden violations. Theta oscillatory effects suggested that perspective taking in TPJ was systematically related to areas processing language, perception, and episodic memory.

Finally, revealing the basic mechanisms of VPT allowed for theoretical innovations and computational models documented by 3 publications (Braithwaite et al., 2013; Miyachikov et al., 2014; Pezzulo et al., 2013) and one other paper on the relationship between perspective taking and out-of-body experiences (Kessler & Braithwaite, submitted).
Exploitation Route Our findings will guide future research into how humans represent others they interact with. The main conclusion from our research is that humans simulate an alternative embodied self that forms the basis for simulating others, e.g. by imagining the alternative self in annotator's visuo-spatial, cognitive or socio-emotional context. We are currently working on a further theoretical paper that will explicitly state these conjectures making them available for empirical science and philosophy (collaboration with Steven Butterfill at Warwick University, Philosophy department).

Additionally, this new theoretical framework will inform research with individuals who are particularly challenged with respect to representing others in social situations, such as people diagnosed with autism. Robert Seymour is a PhD student (started October 2015) who is working on perspective taking and sensory processing in autism.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
 
Description As evidenced by the added entries in outreach activities our findings have impacted on the debate about gender differences in the brain. Our data on culturally mediated gender differences are evidence for learned differences as opposed to inborn, hard-wired differences and therefore help changing existing stereotypes and prejudices. Our reserach has been showcased in BBC Horizon program. In 2016 we have successfully secured a PhD scholarship together with the Birmingham Children's Hospital (BCH) to investigate gender differnces in autism. This research will not only benefit academic outcomes but will feed directly into clinical practice of the Children and Adolescence Mental Health Services (CAMHS at BCH, Prof Ashley Liew).
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Other
Impact Types Societal
 
Description Aston Laboratory for Immersive Virtual Environments (ALIVE)
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ALIVE 
Organisation The Wolfson Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2014 
End 12/2015
 
Description Cotutelle PhD scholarship with Macquarie University AUS 
Organisation Macquarie University
Country Australia, Commonwealth of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is a cotutelle PhD scholarship agreement where the student is spending 1.5 years at Aston University under Prof Kessler's supervision and the subsequent 1.5 years at Macquarie University under the supervision of Prof Blake Johnson and Dr Jon Brock. The topic involves perspective taking and sensory processing in ASD. The Aston part involves MEG measurements with a sensory paradigm and a perspective taking paradigm in individuals diagnosed with ASD (over the age of 16)
Collaborator Contribution At Macquarie teh student will be using the paradigms developed and employed at Aston with a younger sample of children diagnosed with ASD (younger than 16). This will complement teh research conducted at Aston.
Impact The student has just started and we have not yet produced joint publications. However a joint workshop has been organised for the Biomag conference in Seoul (August, 2016).
Start Year 2015
 
Description BBC program Horizon appearance 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Our research on embodied perspective taking in relation to gender differences mediated by culture was showcased in theBBC Horizon program on male vs. female brain differences.

Request for press releases and comments
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04knbny
 
Description British Science Festival Press Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Further press coverage (Times article)

Increased communication and requests for furthe rinformation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/press-launch-press-releases
 
Description MULTI-LEVEL ALIGNMENT BETWEEN SELF AND OTHERS: THE BASIS FOR EMPATHY? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact I was invited as keynote speaker at the GK Summer School on "Mechanisms underlying Emotions". In my talk I put special emphasis on the MEG findings resulting from this ESRC grant.



Abstract:

Firstly, I will review our findings on the importance of body posture alignment when perceiving and interacting with conspecifics. While this type of alignment is rather implicit and automatic, it could impact on high level social cognition as suggested by effects of implicit mimicry in social psychology. Together with observations from developmental and comparative psychology, this led us to hypothesise that deliberate alignment in form of perspective taking, which has been proposed as a uniquely human capacity, might still be grounded within representations of the body. Indeed, we repeatedly observed effects of posture congruence on high-level perspective taking (PT), suggesting mental simulation of a body rotation as the underlying mechanism for (literally) "putting ourselves into someone else's shoes". Magnetoencephalography (MEG) data analysis so far revealed oscillatory signatures that converge within the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ), suggesting TPJ as the locus where the observer's embodied mind is aligned with another's. This is further corroborated in a final paradigm, where we observed perspective taking (or mentalizing) during live interactive communication in the MEG. We observed mentalizing/perspective taking in TPJ areas that were co-activated and coupled with areas related to language, perception, and episodic (working) memory. Overall the presentation aims at providing a cross-section of the multiple levels on which humans implicitly or deliberately align themselves with others during social interaction and I hope to discuss with the audience to what extent such alignments might form the basis for empathy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Multi-level alignment between self and others 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited Seminar Speaker at the University of Kent
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Multi-level alignment between self and others as reflected in behaviour and MEG 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Invited Seminar Speaker at the University of East Anglia. The talk was based on the behavioural and MEG findings that resulted form this ESRC grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Talk at Birmingham University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was a presentation to the Cognitive and Psycholinguistic group at Birmingham University, incl. postgrads and undergrads. This talk was novel as it made connections between eh research outcomes of our ESRC grant and psycholinguistic theory.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk at Bristol University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was a presentation to researchers, postgrads and undergrads at Bristol university about the outcomes of our ESRC research grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Times article 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In this press released our study in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B was mentioned as evidence for a learned (e.g. culturally mediated) difference between males and females, as opposed to a hard-wired inborn difference.

Email contacts within and out-with the scientific community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/article4197155.ece