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A curse of knowledge or a curse of uncertainty? Bilingualism, embodiment, and egocentric bias

Samuel, S. ORCID: 0000-0001-7776-7427 (2022). A curse of knowledge or a curse of uncertainty? Bilingualism, embodiment, and egocentric bias. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 76(8), pp. 1740-1759. doi: 10.1177/17470218221132539


The ability to adopt others’ perspectives – our ‘Theory of Mind’ – underpins social interaction. Nevertheless, adults are imperfect perspective takers, demonstrating egocentric biases. Here, a series of experiments assessed whether 1) embodying an agent’s physical perspective (working out whether he held something in his left or right hand), or 2) being bilingual, would benefit perspective taking. Participants were shown a scenario in which an agent puts a ball in one of four boxes. When he returns later, the boxes have been rearranged. Participants then judge how likely the agent is to look in each of the four boxes first. In Experiments 1-3 participants were not more likely to judge the agent would look where he last saw it as a function of either factor. In Experiments 4 and 5 one group of participants were told exactly where the ball had been moved to, the other only that the ball had been moved to a different box. In Experiment 4, participants in the latter condition assigned higher probability to the two boxes that were never mentioned in the task. In Experiment 5 this bias was replicated and was driven by monolinguals and those who had received the embodiment condition. These results suggest that egocentric biases may be more likely to arise when participants are more deliberative, such as when making a judgment under uncertainty, and that extrinsic factors such as bilingualism and embodiment may influence perspective attributions under such conditions.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Publisher Keywords: perspective-taking, embodiment, theory of mind, bilingualism, egocentric bias
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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