Theory of Mind and the Detection of Suspicious Behavior

Neil Brewer, Audrey Ying, Robyn Young, Yong Nah

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Two studies examined whether deficits in theory of mind—the ability to understand and predict the intent, behaviors, and emotions of others—are related to slowness in recognizing that there is something suspicious about the way in which an interaction is unfolding. Participants listened to vignettes, some culminating in a crime, and indicated when they detected something suspicious about the situation unfolding in the scenario. Theory of mind was assessed using the Frith-Happé animations task, which requires the identification of mental states and emotions of pairs of interacting animated geometric stimuli (White, Coniston, Rogers, & Frith, 2011). A meta-analysis of the studies found meaningful—albeit relatively weak—negative relationships between latency to react to cues to suspicious behavior and performance on the theory of mind measure. Ways to refine this novel paradigm that might sharpen the relationship between the key variables are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)123-131
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


    • Detecting criminal behavior
    • Latency
    • Theory of mind


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