Exploring neurophysiological markers of visual perspective taking: Methodological considerations

Int J Psychophysiol. 2021 Mar;161:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2020.12.006. Epub 2020 Dec 31.


Rationale: For visual perspective taking (VPT) using the avatar task, examinations of neural processes using event related potentials (ERP) indicate a distinction between an early posterior perspective calculation process (P3) and a later frontal process (LFSW) managing perspective conflict. While it is unknown if these neural processes are affected in clinical populations, it is unclear if the avatar task can be applied to this group, due to the long duration and sensitivity to data loss. Thus, we performed a methodological study of the avatar task, testing the feasibility of a shortened experimental paradigm.

Objective: To investigate whether previously reported behavioural and ERP effects in the avatar task can also be seen if analysing all trials (matching/non-matching) jointly, and whether they remain robust if only a subset of the data is analysed.

Method: Healthy individuals (n = 20) completed the avatar task with ERP measurement. ERP components (P3, LFSW) and behavioural data were investigated by A) comparing use of only matching trials (n = 384) versus all trials (n = 768), and B) examining if reduced duration of assessment, by analysing only a subset of the data, impacts ERP findings.

Results: We observed minimal differences when analysing data from only matching trial types compared to all trial types. Further, ERP amplitudes and latency findings were replicated when analysing only a subset of the data.

Conclusions: The duration of the avatar task can be reduced to avoid long testing times, thus making it better suited for use in clinical populations.

Keywords: EEG; ERP; Mentalizing; Theory of Mind; Visual perspective taking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evoked Potentials*
  • Humans