Conditional sentences create a blind spot in theory of mind during narrative comprehension

Haigh, Matthew and Bonnefon, Jean-François (2015) Conditional sentences create a blind spot in theory of mind during narrative comprehension. Acta Psychologica, 160. pp. 194-201. ISSN 0001-6918

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2015.05.009

Abstract

We identify a blind spot in the early Theory of Mind processing of conditional sentences that describe a protagonist's potential action, and its predictable consequences. We propose that such sentences create expectations through two independent channels. A decision theoretic channel creates an expectation that the action will be taken (viz., not taken) if it has desirable (viz., undesirable) consequences, but a structural channel acts in parallel to create an expectation that the action will be taken, irrespective of desirability. Accordingly, reading should be disrupted when a protagonist avoids an action with desirable consequences, but reading should not be disrupted when a protagonist takes an action with undesirable consequences. This prediction was supported by the eye movements of participants reading systematically varied vignettes. Reading was always disrupted when the protagonist avoided an action with desirable consequences, but disruptions were either delayed (Experiment 1) or recovered from faster (Experiment 2) when the protagonist took an action with undesirable consequences.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Conditionals; Theory of Mind; Desire; Discourse comprehension; Eye tracking
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2015 08:40
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2016 16:04
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/22891

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