Understanding Belief Reasoning And Its Relation To Reasoning About Reality

  • Rachel Lara Green

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Social cognition comprises a variety of psychological processes that allow us to take advantage of being part of a social group. Two such processes are Belief Reasoning and Visual Perspective Taking Level 2 (VPT-2). The first aim was to explore the differences between Belief Reasoning and VPT-2. Three experiments revealed a distinction between VPT-2 and Belief Reasoning using a novel Seeing-Believing Task. Belief Reasoning was with associated slower responses than VPT-2, suggesting that beliefs are more representationally complex than visual perspectives. The second aim was to explore if there are variations in VPT-2 and Belief Reasoning in adults with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC). The Seeing-Believing Task was administered to a group of autistic and non-autistic adults. A difference between VPT-2 and Belief Reasoning was reported in non-autistic adults, but not autistic adults. Additionally, autistic adults were slowed more by changing perspectives than non-autistic adults. This hints towards an executive functioning explanation for the variations in social cognition reported in ASC. Finally, this thesis aimed to explore whether Belief Reasoning is likely to be involved in a specific type of social interaction, lying and deceiving. While deceiving is defined as requiring the representation of another’s’ beliefs, lying might be less complex. Using a variation of the Seeing-Believing Task, we observed a mixed pattern of results, where individuals may choose to employ Belief Reasoning in some contexts and not others when lying. All experiments in this thesis can be conceptualised as comparisons between reasoning about another’s beliefs (Belief Reasoning and deception) and reasoning about reality (VPT-2 and lying), with the former proving to be the more demanding process based on consistently slower response times.
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDaniel Joel Shaw (Supervisor), Adrian Burgess (Supervisor) & Klaus Kessler (Supervisor)


  • Visual Perspective Taking
  • Theory of Mind
  • Mentalizing
  • Autism
  • Lying
  • Deception

Cite this