Windows to the soul: children and adults see the eyes as the location of the self

Cognition. 2012 May;123(2):313-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.02.002. Epub 2012 Mar 3.


Where are we? In three experiments, we explore preschoolers' and adults' intuitions about the location of the self using a novel method that asks when an object is closet to a person. Children and adults judge objects near a person's eyes to be closer to her than objects near other parts of her body. This holds even when considering an alien character whose eyes are located on its chest. Objects located near the eyes but out of sight are also judged to be close, suggesting that participants are not using what a person can see as a proxy for what is close to her. These findings suggest that children and adults intuitively think of the self as occupying a precise location within the body, at or near the eyes.

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Eye*
  • Face*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult