Colloquia Green

Perspective taking in context

When two people don’t share a language, they are often able to communicate successfully by creating signals such as spontaneous gestures. Even when they share a language but lack a conventional way to refer to a particular something, they can use old words in new ways to get their point across.

In all such cases, however, a signaler typically has several ways they could convey their meaning: they could signal ‘snake’ by imitating its hissing or by gesturing its winding motion. They could describe a bank as ‘where you go to deposit money’ or as ‘what Santander is’. Since some of these options might be more informative than others from the recipient’s perspective, the question is whether or not people are able to take their interlocutors’ perspective and generate an informative signal.

We present the results of a novel signaling task that focuses on the contribution of salience, shared world knowledge and contextual constraint, and conclude that (1) in general, people signal based on what is salient from their own perspective, not their interlocutors’ point of view, even though they share world knowledge, (2) contextual constraint can boost perspective taking, and (3) some people are better than others at taking perspective, but different cognitive mechanisms predict success in different contexts.

30 MAR 2017 | MPI Room 163 | 15.45 – 17.00