A Cognitive Ethology Study of First- and Third-Person Perspectives

Joseph D. Chisholm (Corresponding Author), Craig S. Chapman, Marvin Amm, Walter F. Bischof, Dan Smilek, Alan Kingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of the present study was to test the cognitive ethology approach, which seeks to link cognitions and behaviours as they operate in everyday life with those studied in controlled lab-based investigations. Our test bed was the understanding of first-person and third-person perspectives, which in lab-based investigations have been defined in a diverse and multi-faceted manner. We hypothesized that because these lab-based investigations seek to connect with how first- and thirdperson perspective operates in everyday life, then either some of the divergent lab-based definitions are missing their mark or the everyday conceptualization of first- and third-person perspective is multi-faceted. Our investigation revealed the latter. By applying a cognitive ethology approach we were able to determine that a) peoples' everyday understanding of perspective is diverse yet reliable, and b) a lab-based investigation that applies these diverse understandings in a controlled setting can accurately predict how people will perform. These findings provide a 'proof of concept' for the cognitive ethology approach. Moreover, the present data demonstrate that previous lab-based studies, that often had very different understandings of first- and third-person perspective, were each in and of themselves valid. That is, each is capturing part of a broader understanding of perspective in everyday life. Our results also revealed a novel social factor not included in traditional conceptualizations of first-person third-perspective, that of eye gaze, i.e., eye contact is equated strongly with first-person perspective and the lack of eye-contact with third-person perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere92696
Number of pages10
JournalPloS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

The present investigation was funded by a grant awarded to AK by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


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