Learning to control the other’s body facilitates the embodied perspective taking

AbstractPerspective taking, a cognitive process of understanding information from the other’s viewpoint, is essential for forming communication skills. Whereas this process is considered to involve detachment of the reference frame from the own eye and attachment of it to the other’s eye, we instead hypothesized here that it is mediated by representing the other’s intrinsic (i.e., proprioceptive) coordinate frame, since our cognitive abilities often rely on the physical presence. To examine this possibility, we asked the participants to learn to control avatar’s motion in the virtual reality space from the third-person perspective and sought interaction between the ability to represent avatar’s intrinsic coordinate systems via motor adaptation and the ability to take avatar’s spatial perspective. We found significant facilitation of perspective taking ability by the motor adaptation experience, which supports our hypothesis that the perspective taking encompasses a process of representing the other’s intrinsic coordinate frame. We suggest that the perspective taking is an embodied cognitive process which underpins theory of mind and empathy.

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