In a recent study (Gilead et al., 2016), perspective taking (PT) was found to have a significant effect on affect ratings of negative pictures compared to neutrals. The current study explores the question whether PT would be affected equally by distinct negative emotions. We used neutral pictures and pictures classified as provoking sadness or disgust, matched for their intensity and arousal. Participants were asked to rate the pictures (on a scale from 1—no emotional reaction, to 5—very strong reaction) from 3 different perspectives - tough, sensitive, or their own – “me”. In Experiment 1, all pictures were mixed in the same blocks. In Experiment 2, the sad and disgust pictures were separated into two different blocks (each including neutrals). Both experiments showed significant interaction between PT and emotion. PT was found to be influenced by valence; however, distinct negative emotions were found to affect PT similarly.
Knowing the other's mind—what drives him, what explains her behaviors, what do they think, want, believe, and so forth—is crucial in order to get along in the social world. This ability is based on a complex social cognitive process named perspective taking (PT). PT is considered to be the cognitive component of empathy (Lamm, Batson, & Decety, 2007) and is also studied as “theory of mind” (ToM) (Premack & Woodruff, 1978) and “mentalizing” (Frith & Frith, 2003), terms that are often used interchangeably. PT involves imagining how another is affected by his or her situation without confusing between the experience of the self and the experience of the other person (Davis, Conklin, Smith, & Luce, 1996). Failing to do so sets the stage for varied potential misunderstandings and conflicts (Ross & Ward, 1996). Various factors have been found to affect the ability to take the perspective of others, thereby diminishing the egocentric perspective. For instance, egocentrism tends to be greater with others who are considered to be close and those perceived as being more similar to oneself than with strangers (Krienen, Tu, & Buckner, 2010) or others who are dissimilar (Ames, 2004; Todd, Hanko, Galinsky, & Mussweiler, 2011). People also tend to be more egocentric when they are under pressure to respond quickly (Epley, Keysar, Van Boven, & Gilovich, 2004), they are distracted by a concurrent task (Schneider, Lam, Bayliss, & Dux, 2012) or when they are members of individualistic cultures (Wu, Barr, Gann, & Keysar, 2013). The relationship between emotion and PT or whether or not emotion is another factor that influences PT is a question that has been addressed recently by a few scholars. In a neuroimaging and behavioral study, Gilead et al.