The Role of Inhibition in Theory of Mind Performance: Evidence for a Non-Modular View of Theory of Mind


As the modularity of Theory of Mind continues to be debated, the present study sought to investigate the relationship between inhibitory control and performance on a linguistic Theory of Mind (ToM) task. Performance on ToM tasks that relied on inhibitory control was contrasted with performance on ToM tasks that did not rely on inhibitory control. In addition, a range of executive function tasks were administered to all participants. It was hypothesized that if Theory of Mind shares resources with the executive process of inhibition, performance on the ToM task would diminish when inhibition demands were high. Results indicated that performance on the ToM task was significantly lower when participants were required to inhibit superficial discrepancies in the Theory of Mind stories. Moreover, performance on the ToM task correlated with the ability to resist non-linguistic interference. These findings challenge the modular views of Theory of Mind, and suggest that Theory of Mind and executive functions may rely on common cognitive resources.

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