Higher order intentionality tasks are cognitively more demanding.
Lewis PA., Birch A., Hall A., Dunbar RIM.
A central assumption that underpins much of the discussion of the role played by social cognition in brain evolution is that social cognition is unusually cognitively demanding. This assumption has never been tested. Here, we use a task in which participants read stories and then answered questions about the stories in a behavioural experiment (39 participants) and an fMRI experiment (17 participants) to show that mentalising requires more time for responses than factual memory of a matched complexity and also that higher orders of mentalising are disproportionately more demanding and require the recruitment of more neurons in brain regions known to be associated with theory of mind, including insula, posterior STS, temporal pole and cerebellum. These results have significant implications both for models of brain function and for models of brain evolution.