Does fiction reading influence Theory of Mind? An EEG study based on time-domain and time-frequency-domain approaches


The understanding of false belief, others’ beliefs can differ from reality, is essential in Theory of Mind, which has been shown to correlate with reading experiences, especially reading literary fiction, yet little research has investigated the neural basis of this relationship. Using electroencephalography (EEG), this study explored whether reading fiction predicts false belief understanding from time-domain amplitude and time-frequency-domain power. Participants were 26 university students (Mage = 21 years, 14 males). Their general reading experiences were evaluated using Reading Interest and Comparative Reading Habits (CRH) and fiction reading experiences were assessed using a Hong Kong Author Recognition Test (HKART). Participants underwent EEG recordings while viewing belief-related cartoon stories. Results showed increased left frontal-central event-related potentials (ERPs) around 330-370 ms and central ERPs around 850-950 ms in false- versus true-belief conditions. Differential central ERPs were positively correlated with Reading Interest and CRH but not with fiction HKART scores, after controlling for age, gender, family SES, and intelligence. In addition, right temporo-parietal beta (13-20Hz) power around 500-2000 ms and left frontal-central beta power around 2000-3800 ms were enhanced in false- versus true-belief conditions. However, nonsignificant correlations were observed between differential power and reading experiences. The findings imply an association between false belief understanding and general reading rather than fiction reading at the neural level.

Zhong, M., Cheung, H., Chen, S. H. A. (2024, October 23-26). Does fiction reading influence theory of mind? An EEG study based on time-domain and time-frequency-domain approaches. [Poster Presentation]. Society for Psychophysiological Research 2024 Annual Meeting. Prague, Czechia.
Zhong Miao
Zhong Miao
Research Fellow
Annabel Chen
Annabel Chen
Professor of Psychology
Lab Director

Dr. SH Annabel Chen is a clinical neuropsychologist, and currently a Faculty member of Psychology at the School of Social Sciences.