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Psychol Sci. 2006 Oct;17(10):841-4.

Is belief reasoning automatic?

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School of Psychiatry, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Understanding the operating characteristics of theory of mind is essential for understanding how beliefs, desires, and other mental states are inferred, and for understanding the role such inferences could play in other cognitive processes. We present the first investigation of the automaticity of belief reasoning. In an incidental false-belief task, adult subjects responded more slowly to unexpected questions concerning another person's belief about an object's location than to questions concerning the object's real location. Results in other conditions showed that responses to belief questions were not necessarily slower than responses to reality questions, as subjects showed no difference in response times to belief and reality questions when they were instructed to track the person's beliefs about the object's location. The results suggest that adults do not ascribe beliefs to agents automatically.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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