Most people have an intrinsic spatial bias—many are better at processing objects to the left, whereas some are biased to the right. Here, we found that this subtle bias in one’s own awareness is mirrored in one’s ability to process what is likely to be in other people’s minds. If you are biased toward processing your own right side of space, then you may be faster at recognizing when someone else processes an object to his or her right side. One possible interpretation is that we process the space around us, and understand how others process the space around them, using at least partially shared mechanisms.
Many people show a left-right bias in visual processing. We measured spatial bias in neurotypical participants using a variant of the line bisection task. In the same participants, we measured performance in a social cognition task. This theory-of-mind task measured whether each participant had a processing-speed bias toward the right of, or left of, a cartoon agent about which the participant was thinking. Crucially, the cartoon was rotated such that what was left and right with respect to the cartoon was up and down with respect to the participant. Thus, a person’s own left-right bias could not align directly onto left and right with respect to the cartoon head. Performance on the two tasks was significantly correlated. People who had a natural bias toward processing their own left side of space were quicker to process how the cartoon might think about objects to the left side of its face, and likewise for a rightward bias. One possible interpretation of these results is that the act of processing one’s own personal space shares some of the same underlying mechanisms as the social cognitive act of reconstructing someone else’s processing of their space.
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