Many studies suggest that multiple brain processes are involved in perspective-taking. Joe McCleery, Ian Apperly and colleagues have combined new behavioural methods with scalp recording of the brain’s electrical activity to investigate the order in which these processes occur. This work has led to a recent paper, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, and a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council with will enable them to study the same processes in children as well as adults.

Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies implicate both frontal and temporoparietal cortices when humans reason about the mental states of others. Here, we report an event-related potentials study of the time course of one such “theory of mind” ability: visual perspective taking. The findings suggest that posterior cortex, perhaps the temporoparietal cortex, calculates and represents the perspective of self versus other, and then, later, the right frontal cortex resolves conflict between perspectives during response selection.

McCleery, J.P., Surtees, A., Graham, K.A., Richards, J. & Apperly, I.A. (2011). The neural and cognitive time-course of theory of mind. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(36): 12849 –12854