Reasoning about self and others

Ben Meijering

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

1365 Downloads (Pure)


The topic of this dissertation is how people reason about the minds of others, their beliefs, desires, and intentions. Such reasoning is required in social interactions when we are trying to understand other people’s behavior.
Whereas previous research seems to imply that ‘social reasoning’ is complex and limited by cognitive resources, we show that it is susceptible to improvement. Our research shows that cognitive limitations can be alleviated by relatively simple measures, such as stepwise instruction, visual cues, and interactive prompts. Furthermore, additional findings seem to hint at the possibility that suboptimal performance might not be due to limited cognitive capacity, but due to suboptimal strategies instead. The previously mentioned measures might be beneficial here as well: Help people discover and apply better strategies when reasoning about the minds of others.
The most important finding of this dissertation is that people do not interpret social interactions as formal or logical problems without considering mental states, such as beliefs, desires, and intentions. For example, a rational computer opponent in a game is still considered differently than an equivalent mechanical device, even if the outcome is the same in both situations. Moreover, playing a game from someone else’s perspective is more complicated than playing the same game oneself. In other words, social reasoning really is about the minds of others. As such, it is a unique cognitive skill.
Translated title of the contributionRedeneren over zelf en anderen
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Verbrugge, Rineke, Supervisor
  • Taatgen, Niels, Supervisor
  • van Rijn, Hedderik, Co-supervisor
Award date6-Jun-2014
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs978-90-367-7062-0
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-7061-3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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