Brain power

Theory of mind is crucial to effective cooperation

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

A person’s ability to accurately perceive and interpret the thoughts and emotions of others, commonly known as “mindreading ability,” has been identified as a significant predictor of cooperation, even in interactions with unfamiliar individuals.

According to a study1 conducted by researchers from the University of Birmingham, individuals with higher levels of mindreading ability exhibit greater success in collaborating to accomplish shared objectives when compared to those with lower levels of this cognitive skill.

“We show for the first time that cooperation is not all about you,” the researchers explain. “Even if you have excellent mindreading abilities yourself, it will still be advantageous to cooperate with someone with similar abilities, so choose your cooperation partner wisely!”

Theory of mind

The research findings highlight the importance of what is referred to as “theory of mind” in fostering effective cooperation. Theory of mind encompasses the capacity to comprehend and empathize with the mental states, intentions, and emotions of others.

Importantly, the study demonstrates that theory of mind is not necessarily synonymous with intelligence, indicating that individuals can possess varying levels of mind-reading ability irrespective of their intellectual capabilities.

These insights present promising implications, suggesting that cooperation and collaborative efforts can be enhanced through targeted interventions and training programs.

By nurturing and developing individuals’ mind-reading abilities, it is plausible to cultivate improved cooperation and coordination in diverse contexts, such as workplaces, educational institutions, and other communal settings.

In summary, the University of Birmingham study underscores the influential role of mindreading ability, also known as theory of mind, in facilitating successful cooperation. The findings imply that efforts to enhance cooperation can be effectively advanced through training initiatives, potentially yielding positive outcomes in various spheres of social interaction.

Article source: Theory Of Mind Is Crucial To Effective Cooperation.

Header image source: iStock.


  1. Markiewicz, R., Rahman, F., Apperly, I., Mazaheri, A., & Segaert, K. (2023). It is not all about you: Communicative cooperation is determined by your partner’s theory of mind abilities as well as your own. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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