I had a perfect score on the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. The test is a measure of executive functioning. There is a relationship between executive functioning and the ability to get into the heads of other people, the ability to “mentalize” other people.
Individuals who are self-aware, as evidenced by being able to become the object of their own attention, experience a sense of psychological continuity over time and space. It has been speculated that any organisms capable of self-recognition would have an introspective awareness of their own mental states and the ability to ascribe mental states to others. A clear sense of self may have evolved to solve at least two kinds of adaptive problems: 1) the self is the repository of the social feedback one receives from others and, 2) it allows one to model and understand the internal, subjective worlds of others, making it easier to infer intentions and causes that lay behind observed behaviors, thus improving interaction efficacy .
Interestingly, the development of self and other mental state understanding is functionally linked to that of executive functions, i.e., the processes that serve to monitor and control thought and actions, including self-regulation, planning, cognitive flexibility, response inhibition, and resistance to interference. There is increasingly clear evidence of a specific developmental link between the development of mentalizing and improved self-control at around the age of 4. The development of cognitive control is related to the maturation of the prefrontal cortex. In addition, there is hard evidence that a region around the paracingulate sulcus in the medial prefrontal cortex plays a specific role in mentalizing. This region contains spindle cells, a class of large projection neurons found only in great apes and humans, which are thought to be involved in coordinating widely distributed neural activity involving emotion and cognition. This region has been found to be reliably activated by mentalizing tasks of various cognitive difficulties, ranging from judging the emotion in another person’s gaze, to detection of intention in simple dynamic animations, attribution of intention to cartoons characters, story comprehension, detection of social transgression, and appreciation of humor.
When you combine my executive functioning-mediated ability to mentalize others with my “intuitive giftedness” — well, my ability to read other people is scary!