Journal article

People thinking about thinking people: The role of the temporo-parietal junction in "theory of mind"

Saxe R, Kanwisher N ...see all

NeuroImage, vol. 19, issue 4 (2003) pp. 1835-1842

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Abstract

Humans powerfully and flexibly interpret the behaviour of other people based on an understanding of their minds: that is, we use a "theory of mind." In this study we distinguish theory of mind, which represents another person's mental states, from a representation of the simple presence of another person per se. The studies reported here establish for the first time that a region in the human temporo-parietal junction (here called the TPJ-M) is involved specifically in reasoning about the contents of another person's mind. First, the TPJ-M was doubly dissociated from the nearby extrastriate body area (EBA; Downing et al., 2001). Second, the TPJ-M does not respond to false representations in non-social control stories. Third, the BOLD response in the TPJ-M bilaterally was higher when subjects read stories about a character's mental states, compared with stories that described people in physical detail, which did not differ from stories about nonhuman objects. Thus, the role of the TPJ-M in understanding other people appears to be specific to reasoning about the content of mental states. © 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • EBA
  • False belief
  • Mentalising
  • Social cognitive neuroscience
  • Superior temporal sulcus
  • fMRI

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Authors

  • R. Saxe

  • N. Kanwisher

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