Dissociating visual perspective taking and belief reasoning using a novel integrated paradigm: A preregistered online study

Rachel Green, Daniel Joel Shaw, Klaus Kessler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is considerable conceptual overlap between Level-2 Visual Perspective Taking (VPT-2) and Belief Reasoning; both cognitive processes require us to represent another's viewpoint and experience of reality while inhibiting our own egocentric representations. This study investigated if these facets of mentalising are distinct from one another in the general adult population. To do so, we developed a novel "Seeing-Believing Task" with which to compare VPT-2 and true belief (TB) reasoning directly - one in which both judgement types refer to the same state of reality, requiring identical responses, and where self and other perspectives can be dissociated. Across three preregistered online experiments, this task demonstrated consistent differences between these two cognitive processes; specifically, TB judgements were associated with slower response times than VPT-2. This suggests that VPT-2 and TB reasoning are at least partly distinct psychological processes. Further, the greater cognitive effort required for TB reasoning is unlikely to be explained by differences in mnemonic processing. We suggest, therefore, that VPT-2 and TB reasoning differ in the complexity of social processing involved and we discuss theoretical implications based on minimal vs. full-blown Theory of Mind. Future research must attempt to test these conjectures. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2023. Published by Elsevier B.V.]
Original languageEnglish
Article number105397
Pages (from-to)105397
Number of pages16
Early online date3 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 Published by Elsevier B.V. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Funding Information:
RG was supported by an Aston University PhD Scholarship. We would like to thank Prof Steven Butterfill for his insightful comments on our interpretation of the findings. We wish to thank Dr Nicholas Alexander for his help with generating the experimental stimuli with Unreal Engine Version 4.17.2.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Belief reasoning
  • Seeing-believing task
  • Mentalizing
  • Theory of mind
  • Level-2 visual perspective taking


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