Perspective-taking as part of narrative comprehension: A functional MRI study

Yoko Mano, Tokiko Harada, Motoaki Sugiura, Daisuke N. Saito, Norihiro Sadato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)


During narrative comprehension, readers understand the emotions of the protagonist by taking the perspective of the character, which is an essential component of empathy. Spatial perspective-taking is crucial to understanding the standpoints and perceptions of others, and gives clues as to what the protagonist knows. As a default, a "here and now" point-of-view is adopted to make sense of the narrative. If the protagonist is in a different location while an event takes place ("there and now"), in order to comprehend the narrative the reader must take an allocentric perspective, which places greater demands on spatial perspective-taking. Utilizing this phenomenon, we evaluated the neural substrates of perspective-taking in emotional narrative comprehension using functional MRI in 18 normal adults. The subjects read short stories followed by a target sentence, which described an event that might evoke an emotional response in the protagonist if the character were present. The stories involved a scenario in which the character was either present at the same location ("here and now") or at a distant location ("there and now") during the event. The "there and now" scenario activated the posterior cingulate cortex and the right temporo-parietal junction more prominently than the "here and now" condition. In contrast to the control tasks, both scenarios activated the well-known mentalizing network including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, temporal pole, posterior cingulate cortex and temporo-parietal junction. Along with the mentalizing network, the posterior cingulate cortex and the right temporo-parietal junction are involved in spatial perspective-taking during emotional narrative comprehension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-824
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Feb 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotional comprehension
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Perspective-taking
  • Posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)
  • Precuneus
  • Temporo-parietal-junction (TPJ)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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