Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The art of mindreading: Empathy or rational inference?

Date:
May 17, 2010
Source:
Elsevier
Summary:
The ability to infer what another person is thinking is an essential tool for social interaction and is known by neuroscientists as "Theory of Mind," but how does the brain actually allow us to do this?

The ability to infer what another person is thinking is an essential tool for social interaction and is known by neuroscientists as "Theory of Mind" (ToM), but how does the brain actually allow us to do this? We are able to rationally infer what someone knows, thinks, or intends, but we are also able to "slip into their shoes" and infer how they feel, and it seems that the brain processes these different types of information in different ways, as confirmed by a new report in the June 2010 issue of Elsevier's Cortex.

Prof. Elke Kalbe and colleagues from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine at the Research Centre Juelich and the Neurological University Clinic Cologne, Germany, studied a group of male volunteers as they performed a computerized task, which assessed their abilities in both emotional and rational inference. The researchers then applied repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to a part of the brain thought to be involved in rational inference -- the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex -- in order to interfere temporarily with the activity in that part of the brain and test its effect on the ToM abilities of the volunteers.

The findings showed that the temporary interference in this particular area of the brain had an effect on the rational inference abilities (cognitive ToM) of the volunteers, but not on their abilities to infer emotions (affective ToM). "The study corroborates the notion that cognitive and affective ToM are functionally independent and that these subcomponents are mediated by at least partly different neural pathways," notes Prof. Kalbe. Although the distinction between these two aspects of "mindreading" had already been made, the brain pathways for rational inference processes had not been well understood previously.

Coauthor Prof. Matthias Brand, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, adds that this new study "specifically underlines the relevance of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for cognitive aspects of ToM." He also points out that this suggests that certain skills and behaviours known as "executive functions," such as cognitive flexibility and set-shifting, may be important while the brain is working out what someone else is thinking.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Elke Kalbe, Marius Schlegel, Alexander T. Sack, Dennis A. Nowak, Manuel Dafotakis, Christopher Bangard, Matthias Brand, Simone Shamay-Tsoory, Oezguer A. Onur, Josef Kessler. Dissociating cognitive from affective theory of mind: A TMS study. Cortex, 2010; 46 (6): 769 DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2009.07.010

Cite This Page:

Elsevier. "The art of mindreading: Empathy or rational inference?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504095115.htm>.
Elsevier. (2010, May 17). The art of mindreading: Empathy or rational inference?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504095115.htm
Elsevier. "The art of mindreading: Empathy or rational inference?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504095115.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study by British researchers suggests couples' sleeping positions might reflect their happiness. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins