When do humans spontaneously adopt another's visuospatial perspective?

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2016 Mar;42(3):401-12. doi: 10.1037/xhp0000153. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


Perspective-taking is a key component of social interactions. However, there is an ongoing controversy about whether, when and how instances of spontaneous visuospatial perspective-taking occur. The aim of this study was to investigate the underlying factors as well as boundary conditions that characterize the spontaneous adoption of another person's visuospatial perspective (VSP) during social interactions. We used a novel paradigm, in which a participant and a confederate performed a simple stimulus-response (SR) compatibility task sitting at a 90° angle to each other. In this set-up, participants would show a spatial compatibility effect only if they adopted the confederate's VSP. In a series of 5 experiments we found that participants reliably adopted the VSP of the confederate, as long as he was perceived as an intentionally acting agent. Our results therefore show that humans are able to spontaneously adopt the differing VSP of another agent and that there is a tight link between perspective-taking and performing actions together. The results suggest that spontaneous VSP-taking can effectively facilitate and speed up spatial alignment processes accruing from dynamic interactions in multiagent environments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Male
  • Orientation, Spatial*
  • Reaction Time
  • Space Perception*
  • Young Adult