Exploring the relationship between anthropomorphism and theory-of-mind in brain and behaviour

Hortensius, R. , Kent, M., Darda, K. M., Jastrzab, L., Koldweyn, K., Ramsey, R. and Cross, E. S. (2021) Exploring the relationship between anthropomorphism and theory-of-mind in brain and behaviour. Human Brain Mapping, 42(13), pp. 4224-4241. (doi: 10.1002/hbm.25542) (PMID:34196439)

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Abstract

The process of understanding the minds of other people, such as their emotions and intentions, is mimicked when individuals try to understand an artificial mind. The assumption is that anthropomorphism, attributing human-like characteristics to non-human agents and objects, is an analogue to theory-of-mind, the ability to infer mental states of other people. Here, we test to what extent these two constructs formally overlap. Specifically, using a multi-method approach, we test if and how anthropomorphism is related to theory-of-mind using brain (Experiment 1) and behavioural (Experiment 2) measures. In a first exploratory experiment, we examine the relationship between dispositional anthropomorphism and activity within the theory-of-mind brain network (n = 108). Results from a Bayesian regression analysis showed no consistent relationship between dispositional anthropomorphism and activity in regions of the theory-of-mind network. In a follow-up, pre-registered experiment, we explored the relationship between theory-of-mind and situational and dispositional anthropomorphism in more depth. Participants (n = 311) watched a short movie while simultaneously completing situational anthropomorphism and theory-of-mind ratings, as well as measures of dispositional anthropomorphism and general theory-of-mind. Only situational anthropomorphism predicted the ability to understand and predict the behaviour of the film's characters. No relationship between situational or dispositional anthropomorphism and general theory-of-mind was observed. Together, these results suggest that while the constructs of anthropomorphism and theory-of-mind might overlap in certain situations, they remain separate and possibly unrelated at the personality level. These findings point to a possible dissociation between brain and behavioural measures when considering the relationship between theory-of-mind and anthropomorphism.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Jastrzab, Mrs Laura and Hortensius, Dr Ruud and Darda, Miss Kohinoor and Cross, Professor Emily and Kent, Miss Michaela
Creator Roles:
Hortensius, R.Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Resources, Software, Supervision, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
Kent, M.Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Resources, Software, Visualization, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing
Cross, E. S.Funding acquisition, Resources, Supervision, Writing – review and editing
Jastrzab, L.Investigation, Resources, Writing – review and editing
Darda, K.Investigation, Resources, Software, Validation, Visualization, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Hortensius, R., Kent, M., Darda, K. M., Jastrzab, L., Koldweyn, K., Ramsey, R., and Cross, E. S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Human Brain Mapping
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:1065-9471
ISSN (Online):1097-0193
Published Online:01 July 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Human Brain Mapping 42(13): 4224-4241
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
303930SOCIAL ROBOTSEmily CrossEuropean Research Council (ERC)677270NP - Centre for Neuroscience
304215Philip Leverhulme Prize - ECEmily CrossLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHUL)PLP-2018-152NP - Centre for Neuroscience