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date: 23 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In the last decade, cognitive neuroscience research has begun to address key questions concerning Theory of Mind (ToM). Are there distinct brain regions for ToM? What are (and aren’t) those regions doing? This chapter reviews evidence suggesting that key regions support social cognition, thinking about people (medial prefrontal cortex [MPFC]), and ToM, or thinking about thoughts (right temporoparietal junction [RTPJ]). Although we do appear to “simulate” others’ actions (e.g., motor repertoires) and experiences (e.g., pain), the MPFC and RTPJ do not support social cognition and ToM via simulation. Evidence is presented showing that activity in these regions is not modulated by first-person experience or similarity between self and target. People can understand and evaluate others’ actions, even when those actions depend on beliefs and desires they don’t share or have never experienced. The chapter concludes with questions for the next decade of cognitive neuroscientific research regarding ToM.

Keywords: Theory of Mind (ToM), social cognition, medial prefrontal cortex, right temporoparietal junction, simulation

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