Adult theory of mind, cooperation, Machiavellianism, sensitivity to punishment and reward: the effect of mindreading on social relations  

Paál T., Bereczkei T.
First author's affiliation: Institute of Psychology, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary

Theory of mind – the ability to attribute independent mental states and processes to others – plays an important role in our social lives. First, it facilitates social cooperation, and second, it enables us to manipulate others in order to reach our own goals. In two subsequent studies, we have analyzed some basic aspects of the complex relationship between adult theory of mind and social behavior that had not been researched in depth so far. Our results show 1) a strong negative correlation between Machiavellianism and social cooperative skills; 2) a connection between the extent of cooperative tendency and the level of mindreading; 3) a positive correlation between Machiavellianism and sensitivity to reward; and 4) a lack of significant correlation between theory of mind and Machiavellianism. For the interpretation of the results – especially for our fourth finding – we used the concepts of „hot” and „cold” empathy and the lack of representation of moral emotions. Finally, we have started to explore the effects of theory of mind and Machiavellianism on life-like situations by using various games developed within the game theory paradigm.