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Exp Brain Res. 2011 Jun;211(3-4):531-45. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2625-z. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

Giving a helping hand: effects of joint attention on mental rotation of body parts.

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Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, & Behaviour, Centre for Cognition, Radboud University, P.O. Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Research on joint attention has addressed both the effects of gaze following and the ability to share representations. It is largely unknown, however, whether sharing attention also affects the perceptual processing of jointly attended objects. This study tested whether attending to stimuli with another person from opposite perspectives induces a tendency to adopt an allocentric rather than an egocentric reference frame. Pairs of participants performed a handedness task while individually or jointly attending to rotated hand stimuli from opposite sides. Results revealed a significant flattening of the performance rotation curve when participants attended jointly (experiment 1). The effect of joint attention was robust to manipulations of social interaction (cooperation versus competition, experiment 2), but was modulated by the extent to which an allocentric reference frame was primed (experiment 3). Thus, attending to objects together from opposite perspectives makes people adopt an allocentric rather than the default egocentric reference frame.

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