Self-perspective inhibition deficits cannot be explained by general executive control difficulties.
Samson D., Houthuys S., Humphreys GW.
Understanding other people's point of view is crucial for successful social interaction but can be particularly challenging in situations where the other person's point view conflicts with our own view. Such situations require executive control processes that help us resist interference from our own perspective. In this study, we examined how domain-general these executive processes are. We report the performance of two pairs of brain-damaged patients who had sustained lesions in different areas of the prefrontal cortex and who showed deficits in classic executive function tasks. The patients were presented with desire reasoning tasks in which two sources of executive control were manipulated: the need to resist interference from one's own desire when inferring someone else's conflicting desire and the need to resist interference from the ascription of an approach motivation when inferring an avoidance-desire. The pattern of performance of the two pairs of patients conformed to a classic double dissociation with one pair of patients showing a deficit in resisting interference from their own perspective but not from the ascription of an approach motivation while the other pair of patients showed the opposite profile. The results are discussed in relation to the specificity of the processes recruited when we resist interference from our own perspective.