Towards a neurocognitive theory of mind: how control and reasoning processes contribute to adult mentalizing

Hartwright, Charlotte Emily (2014). Towards a neurocognitive theory of mind: how control and reasoning processes contribute to adult mentalizing. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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A series of neuroimaging experiments were conducted using adult participants to explore the neurocognitive bases of reasoning and control processes in Theory of Mind (ToM). Through careful manipulation of psychologically relevant parameters, these were designed to modulate neural regions considered important for ToM, the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), alongside regions more typically associated with executive function, the ventrolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices (vlPFC / dmPFC respectively). This enabled close inspection of the functional profile of these regions, in the context of mentalizing. The core findings were: 1) TPJ was modulated by the valence of mental states. Thus, TPJ does not simply respond to mental representation; the content of the representation is important. 2) The presence of activation in rostral mPFC was manipulated by varying the mode of reasoning. Context is therefore relevant to how adults approach ToM. 3) A neural dissociation was identified between two accounts of control processes for ToM in vlPFC and dmPFC. Such processes mediate the expression of certain ToM concepts. Together, these findings suggest that a neurocognitive account of ToM should describe a flexible system which adapts to the specific conceptual and contextual demands of the social world at that time.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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