Visual perspective taking may rely on the ability to mentally rotate one’s own body into that of another. Here we test whether participants’ ability to make active body movements plays a causal role in visual perspective taking. We utilized our recent task that measures whether participants spontaneously represent another’s visual perspective in a (quasi-)perceptual format that can drive own perceptual decision making. Participants reported whether alphanumeric characters, presented in different orientations, are shown in their normal or mirror-inverted form (e.g., “R” vs. “Я”). Between trials, we manipulated whether another person was sitting either left or right of the character and whether participants’ movement was restricted with a chin rest or they could move freely. As in our previous research, participants spontaneously took the visual perspective of the other person, recognizing rotated letters more rapidly when they appeared upright to the other person in the scene, compared to when they faced away from that person, and these effects increased with age but were (weakly) negatively related to Schizotypy and not to autistic traits or social skills. Restricting participants’ ability to make active body movements did not influence these effects. The results therefore rule out that active physical movement plays a causal role in computing another’s visual perspective, either to create alignment between own and other’s perspective or to trigger perspective-taking processes. The postural adjustments people sometimes make when making judgements from another’s perspective may instead be a bodily consequence of mentally transforming one’s actual to an imagined position in space.



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Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology

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School of Psychology