Selective attention is usually considered an egocentric mechanism, biasing sensory information based on its behavioural relevance to oneself. This study provides evidence for an equivalent allocentric mechanism that allows passive observers to selectively attend to information from the perspective of another person. In a negative priming task, participants reached for a red target stimulus whilst ignoring a green distractor. Distractors located close to their hand were inhibited strongly, consistent with an egocentric frame of reference. When participants took turns with another person, the pattern of negative priming shifted to an allocentric frame of reference: locations close to the hand of the observed agent (but far away from the participant's hand) were inhibited strongly. This suggests that witnessing another's action leads the observer to simulate the same selective attention mechanisms such that they effectively perceive their surroundings from the other person's perspective.
- Action observation
- Mirror neuron system
- Negative priming
- Selective attention
Frischen, A., Loach, D. P., & Tipper, S. P. (2009). Seeing the world through another person's eyes: Simulating selective attention via action observation. Cognition, 111(2), 212-218. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.003