The embodied nature of spatial perspective taking: embodied transformation versus sensorimotor interference

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Humans are able to mentally adopt the spatial perspective of others and understand the world from their point of view. We propose that spatial perspective taking (SPT) could have developed from the physical alignment of perspectives. This would support the notion that others have put forward claiming that SPT is an embodied cognitive process. We investigated this issue by contrasting several accounts in terms of the assumed processes and the nature of the embodiment. In a series of four experiments we found substantial evidence that the transformations during SPT comprise large parts of the body schema, which we did not observe for object rotation. We further conclude that the embodiment of SPT is best conceptualised as the self-initiated emulation of a body movement, supporting the notion of endogenous motoric embodiment. Overall our results are much more in agreement with an ‘embodied’ transformation account than with the notion of sensorimotor interference. Finally we discuss our findings in terms of SPT as a possible evolutionary stepping stone towards more complex alignments of socio-cognitive perspectives.


  • Embodied nature of spatial perspective taking

    Rights statement: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Cognition. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Kessler, K & Thomson, LA, 'The embodied nature of spatial perspective taking: embodied transformation versus sensorimotor interference' Cognition, vol. 114, no. 1 (2010) DOI

    Accepted author manuscript, 694 KB, PDF-document


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-88
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • social cognition, alignment, perspective taking, mental rotation, embodiment, direct posture matching

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