The20 I20of20the20 Beholder
Jul 6, 2023

The “I” of the beholder with Dr. Mika Asaba and Dr. Hyo Gweon (podcast)

An exploration of reputation-related behaviors in humans, across cultures, and across species.

By Templeton Staff

"Questions about the self are central in our lives. Just as common, yet arguably more preoccupying, are questions about the self in the eyes of others," say psychologists Dr. Mika Asaba and Dr. Hyo Gweon in their recent research article, Young children infer and manage what others think about them. Listen in to their conversation about reputation-related behaviors in humans, across cultures, and across species for this episode of Many Minds.

Many Minds podcast host, cognitive scientist, and writer Kensy Cooperrider introduces the episode:

"Let’s face it, we’re all a little bit self-involved. It’s not just that we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. There’s another layer to it: we spend a lot of time thinking about what other people think about us. We take pains to present ourselves in the best possible light; we fret over whether we made a good impression; and we do our best to shape and manage our reputations. It’s honestly hard to imagine not doing any of this—seeing ourselves from the outside can feel like pure reflex. But what are the deeper origins of this tendency? When does it arise in childhood? What are the underpinnings and consequences of reputational thinking?

My guests today are Dr. Mika Asaba, a postdoc in the Psychology Department at Yale University, and Dr. Hyo Gweon, Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Together, Mika and Hyo recently published a paper about reputational thinking in young children.  

In this conversation, we talk about the broader context of this research and lay out some concepts central to it, like “self-presentational behavior” and “theory of mind.” We walk through four experiments in which 3- and 4-year-old children showed a clear interest in their reputations. They strategically communicated to certain people—or about certain events—to make sure they came across well. We then consider the provocative possibility that humans are especially motivated to think about others’ minds when those other minds are thinking about us. We discuss whether similar reputation-related behaviors might be present in other species, and how reputational thinking might vary across cultures. Finally, we touch on a few ways Hyo and Mika are hoping to extend this work into new terrain.

Honestly I got excited about this paper just by reading the first few sentences of the abstract. It takes on such an obviously big and rich and fascinating research question. That basic reflex — to see ourselves through the eyes of others — feels so elemental and so critical to understanding the human mind."

Play the full episode with the above player.

Learn more about Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences priority.


Templeton World Charity Foundation's Diverse Intelligences is a multiyear, global effort to understand a world alive with brilliance in many forms. Its mission is to promote open-minded, forward-looking inquiry in animal, human, and machine intelligences. We collaborate with leading experts and emerging scholars from around the globe, developing high-caliber projects that advance our comprehension of the constellation of intelligences.

Many Minds is a project of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI), made possible through a grant from TWCF to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The Many Minds podcast is hosted and produced by Kensy Cooperrider, with help from assistant producer Cecilia Padilla. Creative support is provided by DISI Directors Erica Cartmill and Jacob Foster. Artwork featured as the podcast badge is by Ben Oldroyd.