Influences of spontaneous perspective taking on spatial and identity processing of faces

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Previous research suggests that people, when interacting with another agent, are sensitive to the other’s visual perspective on the scene. The present study investigated how spontaneously another’s different spatial perspective is taken into account and how this affects the processing of jointly attended stimuli. Participants viewed upright or inverted faces alone, next to another person (same spatial perspective), or opposite another person (different spatial perspectives) while electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded. The task (counting male faces) was in no way related to spatial aspects of the stimuli, and thus did not encourage perspective taking. EEG results revealed no general differences between viewing faces alone or with another person. However, when holding different perspectives (sitting opposite each other), the amplitudes of the N170 and of the N250 significantly increased for upright faces. This indicates that people spontaneously represented the other’s different perspective, which led to higher demands for structural encoding (N170) and to increased allocation of attention to face recognition (N250) for stimuli that are typically processed configurally. When holding different spatial perspectives, thus, people may not merely represent that the other sees the object or scene differently, but how the object/scene looks for the other.

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