This study tests the hypothesis that the posterior cerebellum is involved in social cognition by identifying and automatizing sequences of social actions. We applied a belief serial reaction time task (Belief SRT task), which requires mentalizing about two protagonists' beliefs about how many flowers they receive. The protagonists' beliefs could either be true or false depending on their orientation (true belief: oriented towards and directly observing the flowers; or false belief: oriented away and knowing only prior information about flowers). A Control SRT task was created by replacing protagonists and their beliefs with shapes and colors. Participants were explicitly told that there was a standard sequence related to the two protagonists' belief orientations (Belief SRT task) or the shapes' colors (Control SRT task). Both tasks included a Training phase where the standard sequence was repeated and a Test phase where this standard sequence was interrupted by random sequences. As hypothesized, compared with the Control SRT task, the Belief SRT task recruited the posterior cerebellar Crus II and the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) more. Faster response times were correlated with less Crus II activation and with more TPJ activation, suggesting that the Crus II supported automatizing the belief sequence while the TPJ supported inferring the protagonists' beliefs. Also as hypothesized, compared with an implicit version of the Belief SRT task (i.e., participants did not know about the existence of sequences; Ma, Pu, et al., 2021b), the cerebellar Crus I &II was engaged less during initial training and automatic application of the sequence, and the cortical TPJ was activated more in processing random sequences.
Bibliographical note© 2021. The Psychonomic Society, Inc.
- Explicit sequence learning
- False belief
- Serial reaction time task
- Social cognition