A number of social cognition studies posit that humans spontaneously compute the viewpoint of other individuals. This is based on experiments showing that responses are shorter when a human agent, located in a visual display, can see the stimuli relevant to the observer’s task. Similarly, responses are slower when the agent cannot see the task-relevant stimuli. We tested the spontaneous perspective taking theory by incorporating it within two classic visual cognition paradigms (i.e., the flanker effect and the Simon effect), as well as reassessing its role in the gaze cueing effect. Results showed that these phenomena (e.g., the Simon effect) are not modulated according to whether a gazing agent can see the critical stimuli or not. We also examined the claim that previous results attributed to spontaneous perspective taking are due to the gazing agent’s ability to shift attention laterally. Results found no evidence of this. Overall, these data challenge both the spontaneous perspective taking theory, as well as the attentional shift hypothesis.
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