Knowing me, knowing you: Deictic complexity in false-belief understanding

McHugh, Louise and Barnes-Holmes, Yvonne and Barnes-Holmes, Dermot and Whelan, Robert and Stewart, Ian
The Psychological Record, 57(4): 533, 2007

Investigators examined the role of deictic complexity in the context of false-belief understanding. Deictic relations (i.e., I and YOU, HERE and THERE, and NOW and THEN) are used to describe one’s perspective on events in the environment. Differences in complexity between responding in accordance with “I” (self) and “YOU” (other) relations are thought to be critical in explaining the relative difficulty of false-belief tasks in which taking the perspective of another plays a central role. Reaction times for false-belief tasks in which the presence of self and other relations was systematically manipulated were compared. A significant difference emerged between mean reaction times for these two sets of tasks, thus providing direct evidence that deictic relations are involved in falsebelief tasks.