Active perspective taking induces flexible use of self-knowledge during social inference

Andrew R. Todd, Austin J. Simpson, Diana I. Tamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Social life hinges on the ability to infer others' mental states. By default, people often recruit self-knowledge during social inference, particularly for others who are similar to oneself. How do people's active perspective-taking efforts-deliberately imagining another's perspective-affect self-knowledge use? In 2 experiments, we test the flexible self-application hypothesis: that the application of self-knowledge to a perspective-taking target differs based on that person's similarity to oneself. We found consistent evidence that, when making inferences about dissimilar others, perspective taking increased the projection of one's own traits and preferences to those targets, relative to a control condition. When making inferences about similar others, however, perspective taking decreased projection. These findings suggest that self-target similarity critically shapes the inferential processes triggered by active perspective-taking efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1583-1588
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • General Psychology


  • Perspective taking
  • Projection
  • Similarity
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of mind


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