The Social Perspective Taking Process: Strategies and Sources of Evidence in Taking Another’s Perspective
by Hunter Gehlbach & Maureen E. Brinkworth - 2012
Background/Context: Research indicates that social perspective taking—the capacity to discern the thoughts and feelings of others—plays a role in many important outcomes in schools. Despite the potential benefits for students and educators, little is known about social perspective taking (SPT) as a process.
Purpose/Research Question: If educational researchers are ultimately to design interventions to help improve the perspective-taking capacities of those in schools, they need to fully understand the underlying process, that is, how social perspective taking actually happens. Particularly important is the need to understand what strategies individuals use and what sources of evidence they draw from when they take the perspective of others.
Participants: To investigate this question, a sample of 18 adults from an array of different professions (who were nominated as adept perspective takers) and 13 high school students (who were nominated as struggling with social perspective taking) participated in the study.
Research Design: Participants completed in-depth interviews and a “think-aloud” protocol as part of this mixed-method exploratory study. The interviews and think-alouds were coded for the type of social perspective taking that strategy participants employed and for the sources of evidence they relied on, respectively.
Findings: Results indicated that participants relied on 12 different types of SPT strategies and drew from seven different sources of evidence when discerning others’ thoughts and feelings.
Conclusions/Recommendations: These findings provide foundational knowledge that lays groundwork for ultimately developing approaches to teach social perspective taking. At a practical level, these findings provide options for students and educators to experiment with as they attempt to take the perspective of one another.
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