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Higher order intentionality tasks are cognitively more demanding

Lewis, Penelope A. ORCID:, Birch, Amy, Hall, Alexander and Dunbar, Robin I. M. 2017. Higher order intentionality tasks are cognitively more demanding. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 12 (7) , pp. 1063-1071. 10.1093/scan/nsx034

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A central assumption that underpins much of the discussion of the role played by social cognition in brain evolution is that social cognition is unusually cognitively demanding. This assumption has never been tested. Here, we use a task in which participants read stories and then answered questions about the stories in a behavioural experiment (39 participants) and an fMRI experiment (17 participants) to show that mentalising requires more time for responses than factual memory of a matched complexity and also that higher orders of mentalising are disproportionately more demanding and require the recruitment of more neurons in brain regions known to be associated with theory of mind, including insula, posterior STS, temporal pole and cerebellum. These results have significant implications both for models of brain function and for models of brain evolution.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords: fMRI, mentalising, intentionality, reaction time, social brain
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 1749-5016
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 19 June 2017
Date of Acceptance: 6 March 2017
Last Modified: 06 May 2023 07:02

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