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Research Article

Thinking in the third person: A mark of expertness?


Guido Peeters

Catholic University of Leuven, BE
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The observation that publication manuals disagree about the desirability to use the third person is explained by arguing that the third person detracts from communication at the surface structural level of linguistic encoding but adds to experts' thinking at the deep structural level of cognitive organization. At the deep level, the third person is defined in terms of processing information defined over relations between entities with the restriction that it is ignored whether relations are reflexive (with self) or non-reflexive (with others). Research is reviewed suggesting that reflexivity is not ignored by default, and that ignoring it facilitates a kind of "depersonalized" thinking reminiscent of the natural sciences and expertness. An experiment is reported confirming that perceivers tend to draw inferences that take reflexivity into account, except in a condition where stimulus information is related to the perceivers' expertise. In the latter, condition inferences are drawn in both ways: either ignoring or not ignoring reflexivity.
How to Cite: Peeters, G., 2004. Thinking in the third person: A mark of expertness?. Psychologica Belgica, 44(4), pp.249–267. DOI:
Published on 01 Dec 2004.
Peer Reviewed


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