Psychology, Interamerican
Social Cognition on Stage: Review of the Relationship between Acting and Theory of Mind
Creative Commons
PDF (Português (Brasil))


social cognition
theory of mind

How to Cite

de Oliveira Ribas Martins, N., & Del Prete Panciera, S. (2023). Social Cognition on Stage: Review of the Relationship between Acting and Theory of Mind. Revista Interamericana De Psicología/Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 57(2), e1796.


In the framework of social cognition, theory of mind is the socio-cognitive ability to attribute mental states, such as desires, intentions and beliefs, to oneself and others. Apart from studies carried out with children, research on typical adults’ theory of mind has sought to understand the impact of individual differences and distinct contexts on the use of this skill. The goal of this research was to carry out an integrative review of studies that investigate theory of mind and stage acting. The “Population, Concept and Context” strategy helped establish the criteria used for selecting research for analysis. The search was carried out in 5 databases and identified 976 texts, of which 14 became part of the qualitative synthesis. Results were analyzed using Content Analysis and allowed us to notice that, under certain conditions, the experience of acting, seems to be linked to theory of mind: acting methods, training practices, and the extension of the scenic experiences are factors that seem to relate to the way we read other people. Thus, this study intends to contribute with an overview of the field, pointing towards gaps and directions for future research.
PDF (Português (Brasil))


Apperly, I. A. (2012). What is “theory of mind”? Concepts, cognitive processes and individual differences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(5), 825-839.

Baron-Cohen, S., O'Riordan, M., Stone, V., Jones, R., & Plaisted, K. (1999). Recognition of faux pas by normally developing children and children with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 29(5), 407-418.

Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Hill, J., Raste, Y., & Plumb, I. (2001). The "Reading the Mind in the Eyes" Test revised version: a study with normal adults, and adults with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines, 42(2), 241-251.

Bernstein, D. M., Thornton, W. L., & Sommerville, J. A. (2011). Theory of mind through the ages: older and middle-aged adults exhibit more errors than do younger adults on a continuous false belief task. Experimental aging research, 37(5), 481-502.

Boggio, M. (2001). Il Corpo Creativo: La Parola e il Gesto in Orazio Costa. Bulzoni. Calvo-Merino.

Brown, S., Cockett, P., & Yuan, Y. (2019). The neuroscience of Romeo and Juliet: an fMRI study of acting. Royal Society open science, 6(3), 181908.

Conson, M., Ponari, M., Monteforte, E., Ricciato, G., Sarà, M., Grossi, D., & Trojano, L. (2013). Explicit recognition of emotional facial expressions is shaped by expertise: evidence from professional actors. Frontiers in psychology, 4, 382.

Corbett, B. A., Gunther, J. R., Comins, D., Price, J., Ryan, N., Simon, D., Schupp, C. W., & Rios, T. (2011). Brief report: theatre as therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 41(4), 505-511.

Corbett, B. A., Key, A. P., Qualls, L., Fecteau, S., Newsom, C., Coke, C., & Yoder, P. (2016). Improvement in Social Competence Using a Randomized Trial of a Theatre Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46(2), 658-672.

Corbett, B. A., Ioannou, S., Key, A. P., Coke, C., Muscatello, R., Vandekar, S., & Muse, I. (2019). Treatment Effects in Social Cognition and Behavior following a Theater-based Intervention for Youth with Autism. Developmental neuropsychology, 44(7), 481-494.

Dziobek, I., Fleck, S., Kalbe, E., Rogers, K., Hassenstab, J., Brand, M., Kessler, J., Woike, J. K., Wolf, O. T., & Convit, A. (2006). Introducing MASC: a movie for the assessment of social cognition. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 36(5), 623-636.

Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1976). Pictures of Facial Affect. Consulting Psychologists.

Goldstein, T. R. (2009). Psychological perspectives on acting. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 3(1), 6-9.

Goldstein, T. R., Wu, K., & Winner, E. (2009). Actors are Skilled in Theory of Mind but Not Empathy. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 29(2), 115-133.

Goldstein, T. R.; Winner, E. (2010). A new lens on the development of social cognition: The study of acting. In C. Milbrath & C. Lightfoot (Eds.), Art and Human Development (220-246). Psychology Press.

Goldstein, T. R., & Winner, E. (2011). Engagement in Role Play, Pretense, and Acting Classes Predict Advanced Theory of Mind Skill in Middle Childhood. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 30(3), 249-258.

Goldstein, T. & Winner, E. (2012) Enhancing Empathy and Theory of Mind. Journal of Cognition and Development. 13, 19-37.

Guadagni, V., Burles, F., Ferrara, M., & Iaria, G. (2014). The effects of sleep deprivation on emotional empathy. Journal of sleep research, 23(6), 657-663.

Happé F. G. (1994). An advanced test of theory of mind: understanding of story characters' thoughts and feelings by able autistic, mentally handicapped, and normal children and adults. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 24(2), 129-154.

Harkness, K., Sabbagh, M., Jacobson, J., Chowdrey, N., & Chen, T. (2005). Enhanced accuracy of mental state decoding in dysphoric college students. Cognition & Emotion, 19(7), 999-1025.

Hassenstab, J., Dziobek, I., Rogers, K., Wolf, O. T., & Convit, A. (2007). Knowing what others know, feeling what others feel: a controlled study of empathy in psychotherapists. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 195(4), 277-281.

Keightley, M. L., Winocur, G., Burianova, H., Hongwanishkul, D., & Grady, C. L. (2006). Age effects on social cognition: Faces tell a different story. Psychology and Aging, 21(3), 558-572.

Konijn, E. A. (2000). Acting emotions: shaping emotions on stage. University Press.

Likowski, K. U., Mühlberger, A., Seibt, B., Pauli, P., & Weyers, P. (2011). Processes underlying congruent and incongruent facial reactions to emotional facial expressions. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 11(3), 457-467.

Mages, W. K. (2018). Does theatre-in-education promote early childhood development? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 45, 224-237.

Martins, C., Barreto, A. L., & Castiajo, P. (2013). Teoria da mente ao longo do desenvolvimento normativo: Da idade escolar até à idade adulta. Análise Psicológica, 31(4), 377-392.

Martins-Junior, F. E., Sanvicente-Vieira, B., Grassi-Oliveira, R., & Brietzke, E. (2011). Social cognition and Theory of Mind: Controversies and promises for understanding major psychiatric disorders. Psychology & Neuroscience, 4(3), 347-351.

Nettle, D. (2006) Psychological profiles of professional actors. Personality and Individual Differences, 40, 375-383.

Noice, T. & Noice, H. (2002) The expertise of professional actors: A review of recent research. High Ability Studies, 13, 7-19. https://doi:10.1080/13598130220132271

Panero, M. E., Weisberg, D. S., Black, J., Goldstein, T. R., Barnes, J. L., Brownell, H., & Winner, E. (2016). Does reading a single passage of literary fiction really improve theory of mind? An attempt at replication. Journal of personality and social psychology, 111(5), 46-54.

Pardini, M., & Nichelli, P. F. (2009). Age-related decline in mentalizing skills across adult life span. Experimental aging research, 35(1), 98-106.

Peters M.D.J., Godfrey C., McInerney P., Munn Z., Tricco A.C., Khalil, H. Chapter 11: Scoping Reviews (2020 version). In: Aromataris E, Munn Z (Editors). JBI Manual for Evidence Synthesis, JBI, 2020.

Pinkham, A. E., Penn, D. L., Green, M. F., Buck, B., Healey, K., & Harvey, P. D. (2014). The social cognition psychometric evaluation study: results of the expert survey and RAND panel. Schizophrenia bulletin, 40(4), 813-823.

Pons, F., Harris, P. L., & de Rosnay, M. (2004). Emotion comprehension between 3 and 11 years: Developmental periods and hierarchical organization. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1(2), 127-152.

Sanvicente-Vieira, B., Kluwe-Schiavon, B., Corcoran, R., & Grassi-Oliveira, R. (2017). Theory of Mind Impairments in Women With Cocaine Addiction. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(2), 258-267.

Stanislavski K. 1936 An actor prepares (trans. E Reynolds Hapgood). Routledge.

Tabullo, A. J., Navas Jiménez, V. A., & García, C. S. (2018). Associations between fiction reading, trait empathy and theory of mind ability. International Journal of Psychology & Psychological Therapy, 18(3), 357-370. recuperado de:

Whittemore, R., & Knafl, K. (2005). The integrative review: updated methodology. Journal of advanced nursing, 52(5), 546-553.

Wellman, H. M. (2018). Theory of mind: The state of the art. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1, 28. https://doi:10.1080/17405629.2018.1435413

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2023 Nathan de Oliveira Ribas Martins, Sara Del Prete Panciera