Doctoral Defense of Martin Freundlieb
The Department of Cognitive Science cordially invites you to the public defense of the PhD thesis of
Primary supervisor: Natalie Sebanz
Secondary supervisor: Ágnes M. Kovács
Perspective-taking is one of the fundamental building blocks enabling humans to successfully understand and relate to others in a large variety of social interactions. Yet, there are many open questions about whether, when and how instances of visuospatial perspective-taking occur during social interactions. This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of spontaneous visuospatial perspective-taking in humans. Chapter 1 discusses visuospatial perspective-taking in the wider context of social cognition abilities. The study presented in Chapter 2 explored the underlying factors as well as boundary conditions that characterize the spontaneous adoption of another person’s visuospatial perspective (VSP). The results showed that participants spontaneously adopted a differing VSP, given there was an intentionally acting agent alongside of them. Chapter 3 investigated whether knowledge about another’s visual access systematically modulates spontaneous VSP-taking. In two experiments we found that knowledge about another person’s visual access indeed modulated the spontaneous integration of another person’s VSP into one’s own action planning. Specifically, our findings showed that participants only adopted the other person’s VSP if he had unhindered visual access to the stimuli but regardless of whether or not he performed the same task or a different task. Finally, the study presented in Chapter 4 probed whether spontaneous VSP-taking also occurs in mental space where another person’s perspective matters for mental activities rather than for physical actions. In three experiments participants reliably adopted the VSP of a confederate in the context of a semantic categorization task that involved reading words. Taken together, these studies show that we spontaneously take into account how somebody else perceives the environment, even in situations where we are not asked to do so, and we are likely not aware of doing so. This suggests that humans are endowed with a basic sensitivity to their conspecifics’ viewpoints.