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Mindreading in the Balance: Adults’ Mediolateral Leaning and Anticipatory Looking Foretell Others’ Action Preparation in a False-Belief Interactive Task (2020)

by Giovanni Zani, Stephen A. Butterfill and Jason Low

---Royal Society Open Science 7(1), pp. 1-14
--- links: [pdf] external [doi: 10.1098/rsos.191167]


Anticipatory looking on mindreading tasks can indicate our expectation of an agent's action. The challenge is that social situations are often more complex, involving instances where we need to track an agent's false belief to successfully identify the outcome to which an action is directed. If motor processes can guide how action goals are understood, it is conceivable—where that kind of goal ascription occurs in false-belief tasks—for motor representations to account for someone's belief-like state. Testing adults (N = 42) in a real-time interactive helping scenario, we discovered that participants' early mediolateral motor activity (leftwards–rightwards leaning on balance board) foreshadowed the agent's belief-based action preparation. These results suggest fast belief-tracking can modulate motor representations generated in the course of one's interaction with an agent. While adults' leaning, and anticipatory looking, revealed the contribution of fast false-belief tracking, participants did not correct the agent's mistake in their final helping action. These discoveries suggest that adults may not necessarily use another's belief during overt social interaction or find reflecting on another's belief as being normatively relevant to one's own choice of action. Our interactive task design offers a promising way to investigate how motor and mindreading processes may be variously integrated.