A paper newly published in Neuroimage written by Charlotte Hartwright (pictured right), Ian Apperly and Peter Hansen demonstrates that typically functioning adults find it difficult to overcome their own perspective when making a behavioural prediction about someone else.

Participants were asked to predict the actions of a character, Simon, whilst having their brains scanned. Interestingly, when the participants knew that Simon was misinformed in his belief about the world (termed having a ‘false belief’), participants were slower to make a prediction about what Simon would do, compared with when they knew that Simon was correctly informed about the world (a ‘true belief’). Hartwright et al., (2012) argue that this evidences cognitive difficulty with overcoming what we know to be true, when our own knowledge state contradicts that of what another person believes.

With careful manipulation of Simon’s intentional state, which is also shown to have an effect on the rapidity of decision making, the authors were able to show that only inhibition of self knowledge, as is required when making judgements about an agent who holds a false belief, is initiated by the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

Hartwright C. E., Apperly I. A., & Hansen P. C. (2012). Multiple roles for executive control in belief-desire reasoning: Distinct neural networks are recruited for self perspective inhibition and complexity of reasoning. Neuroimage 61(4), 921-930