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Conscious Cogn. 2012 Mar;21(1):494-500. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2011.12.004. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Empathic and non-empathic routes to visuospatial perspective-taking.

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Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW, United Kingdom.


The present study examined whether strategy moderated the relationship between visuospatial perspective-taking and empathy. Participants (N=96) undertook both a perspective-taking task requiring speeded spatial judgements made from the perspective of an observed figure and the Empathy Quotient questionnaire, a measure of trait empathy. Perspective-taking performance was found to be related to empathy in that more empathic individuals showed facilitated performance particularly for figures sharing their own spatial orientation. This relationship was restricted to participants that reported perspective-taking by mentally transforming their spatial orientation to align with that of the figure; it was absent in those adopting an alternative strategy of transposing left and right whenever confronted with a front-view figure. Our finding that strategy moderates the relationship between empathy and visuospatial perspective-taking enables a reconciliation of the apparently inconclusive findings of previous studies and provides evidence for functionally dissociable empathic and non-empathic routes to visuospatial perspective-taking.

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