08 September 2017
As social creatures, accurately recognising and understanding the mental states of others - their intentions, knowledge and beliefs - is crucial to our social bonds and interactions.
In a guest post on our Research Digest blog Marianne Cezza a recent study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement proposes that an effective way to develop our 'theory of mind' lies in learning to better understand ourselves.
For the study, Anne Böckler and colleagues, based at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, recruited 141 participants to take part in a three-month long contemplative training course that teaches people to take the perspective of the different aspects of their own personalities.
After completing the training course the participants took the same Theory of Mind test that they’d taken at the start of the study. Improvement in Theory of Mind was correlated with the number of different inner personality parts identified – and the more facets the participants were able to recognise within themselves, the better they seemed to become at understanding others.
This is reflected in neuroimaging research, where the processes of perspective-taking of the self and others utilise shared neural mechanisms.