Hide and seek: The theory of mind of visual concealment and search
Researchers have investigated visual search behavior for almost a century. During that time, few studies have examined the cognitive processes involved in hiding items rather than finding them. To investigate this, we developed a paradigm that allowed participants to indicate where they would hide (or find) an item that was to be found (or hidden) by a friend or a foe. We found that (i) for friends more than foes, participants selected the pop-out item in the display, and (ii) when the display was homogeneous, they selected nearby and corner items. These behaviors held for both hiding and finding, although hide and find behaviors were not identical. For pop-out displays, decision times were unusually long when hiding an item from a foe. These data converge on the conclusion that the principles of search and concealment are similar, but not the same. They also suggest that this paradigm will provide researchers a powerful method for investigating theory of mind in adults.