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Departmental Colloquium: Perceptual simulation as basis for understanding others

Patric Bach
Wednesday, November 22, 2023, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

Recent proposals argue that people’s understanding of other people’s behaviours relies on a top-down guided process that is able to “paint” one’s knowledge of the other person – their goals, beliefs, and perspective onto the environment – onto ones’ own perceptual system. I will report data from two experimental paradigms that support this view. These studies show, first, that people’s understanding of others’ behaviour is guided by perceptual anticipations of their forthcoming actions. These anticipations can be made visible as subtle distortions of a perceived action’s path towards those expectations. Second, they show that perceptual expectations of another’s sensory input also underlie people’s ability to take others’ perspective, providing a view how the world looks to them that can support own decision making. Together, these findings argue for a framework in which perceptual anticipations play a key role in social cognition and provide one with insights into others knowledge of the world and their future behaviour.