Mind-reading skills are crucial for effective cooperation

DNVN - Even with strangers, a person's'mindreading ability' can predict how well they will be able to work together.

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Researchers at the University of Birmingham discovered that those with strong mind-reading abilities -- the capacity to comprehend and assume the perspective of another person's feelings and intentions -- are more effective at cooperating to complete tasks than those with weak mind-reading abilities.

These qualities, also referred to as "theory of mind," are not necessarily related to intelligence and could be enhanced through training programmes that foster better cooperation, such as in the workplace or in schools and colleges.

Roksana Markiewicz, the study's lead researcher, explained: "As a psychology researcher, I am frequently asked if I can read minds. While this is often said in jest, humans do possess mindreading abilities. Our research demonstrates that these traits are crucial for activities requiring cooperation."

Theory of mind could be enhanced through training programmes that foster better cooperation. (Illustrative image)

In the study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: LMC, over 400 participants' theory of mind was measured. The participants were then paired and joined a researcher on a zoom call where they participated in a series of communication games. Each player's screen displayed a set of visual clues that could not be viewed by their partner. They had to collaborate and communicate about the various sets of clues in order to solve a puzzle.

Players with high theory of mind (ToM) abilities who were paired with individuals with similarly high ToM scores cooperated more effectively than those paired with individuals with low ToM scores. Researchers hypothesise that this is due to a heightened capacity to align in the same mental space and to recover quickly from misalignment.

Mind-reading skills are crucial for effective cooperation. (Illustrative image).

Similarly, the researchers discovered that participants with low ToM abilities were more prone to cooperation failures. They hypothesise that this is due to the fact that it was more difficult for these participants to align their thinking, resulting in more frequent errors and poorer recovery from errors.

Roksana states, "We demonstrate for the first time that cooperation is not all about you." "Even if you have excellent mindreading abilities yourself, it will still be advantageous to cooperate with someone with similar abilities, so choose your cooperation partner wisely!"

Journal Reference: Roksana Markiewicz, Foyzul Rahman, Ian Apperly, Ali Mazaheri, Katrien Segaert. It is not all about you: Communicative cooperation is determined by your partner’s theory of mind abilities as well as your own.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2023; DOI: 10.1037/xlm0001268

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