Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Lakshmanan, Usha

Abstract

Theory of Mind (ToM), the ability to accurately predict and reason about the mental states and beliefs of others, has yet to be explored in Emerging Adulthood, the 18-25 age range characterized by variability and developing a flexible worldview. The current study attempts to predict accuracy and response time on two ToM tasks, The Mind in the Eyes task (MiE), and the Empathetic Accuracy Paradigm (EAP) task by acting experience (whether the participant has acted in a live theater performance) and college experience (freshmen, sophomore, etc.) in 116 college participants. It was hypothesized that regression models including acting experience and college experience will account for more variance than models including only demographic variables and that the models including acting and college experience will significantly predict accuracy and response time on all ToM tasks. All such models predicting accuracy were significant, while only a model predicting response time on the EAP task was significantly predictive. It was hypothesized that acting experience will enable participants to use Theory of Mind skills faster and more accurately (Goldstein & Winner, 2012). Multiple regression analyses confirmed that acting experience is a significant predictor in all models predicting accuracy on Theory of Mind tasks, however response time was a significant predictor in only one of two tasks. It was also hypothesized that college experience will result in a more flexible worldview, open to multiple viewpoints and opinions, significantly influencing response time and accuracy. Multiple regression analyses revealed college experience approached significance in a model predicting accuracy on the MiE task, but no other significant contributions. Implications for the benefits of acting and college experience, the study of Theory of Mind in Emerging Adulthood, and practical applications of the findings in academia and therapeutic settings are discussed.

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