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neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade

Topic 36

neural accuracy elusive task trade process effect familiarity repeat tradeoff judgment game offs audience match

Validation of a set of stimuli to investigate the effect of attributional processes on social motivation in within-subject experiments

Attribution of responsibility for the causes of suffering is one of the main factors that influence responses to individuals in distress. While the role of attributional processes on prosocial motivation has been widely investigated in social psychology, only few attempts have been made to characterize their behavioural and neurophysiological underpinnings. This is partly due to the lack of stimuli that can facilitate within-subject experimental designs. To overcome this problem, we created a set of stimuli consisting of videos depicting people in different situations of distress. Each video is paired with short stories that aim to manipulate the perceived degree of responsibility of the main character. To validate the stimuli, we investigated the effect of different context-video pairs on self-report measures of participants’ subjective experience. We found that different contexts preceding the same video can influence blame and responsibility judgments, affective responses and willingness to help. In a complementary analysis, we replicated previous findings on the influence of empathy and responsibility on willingness to help. However, we did not observe a negative correlation between responsibility and empathy as described in attribution theories. Finally, we observed a general increase in responses times when videos were paired with Responsible contexts. We provide interpretations of this finding that can relate attribution accounts to prominent theories in moral psychology. Overall, this study highlights the possibility of falsifying existing theories on attributional processes by implementing a set of stimuli that includes multiple scenarios and allow for the collection of third person measures in within-subject designs.
motivation
empathy
experience
research
response
validation
prosocial behavior
attribution
judgment
responsibility
blame
help
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
Motivational effects on empathic choices

Empathy often feels automatic, but variations in empathic responding suggest that, at least some of the time, empathy is affected by one’s motivation to empathize in any particular circumstance. Here, we show that people can be motivated to engage in (or avoid) empathy-eliciting situations with strangers, and that these decisions are driven by subjective value-based estimations of the costs (e.g., cognitive effort) and benefits (e.g., social reward) inherent to empathizing. Across seven experiments (overall N = 1,348), and replicating previous work (Cameron et al., 2019), we found a robust empathy avoidance effect. We also find support for the hypothesis that individuals can be motivated to opt-in to situations requiring empathy that they would otherwise avoid. Participants were more likely to opt into empathy-eliciting situations if 1) they were incentivized monetarily for doing so (Experiments 1a and 1b), and 2) if a more familiar and liked empathy target was available (Experiments 2a and 2b). Framing empathy as explicitly related to one’s moral character and reputation did not motivate participants to engage in empathy (Experiment 3a and 3c), though these null results may be due to a weak manipulation. These findings suggest that empathy can be motivated in multiple ways, and is a process driven by context-specific value-based decision making.
motivation
empathy
decision making
behavior
psychology
effort
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
Interdependent Self-Construal Predicts Complacency Under Pathogen Threat: An Electrocortical Investigation

The construal of the self as interdependent may offer perceived protection against an external threat to survival. This hypothesis implies that interdependent self-construal may reduce normtightening in response to the threat. Here, we tested this possibility by focusing on two electrocortical responses to norm violations: N400 (a marker of norm violation detection) and suppression of upper α-band power (a marker of vigilance to the violations). 59 American young adults were primed or not with a pathogen threat and then read norm-violating or normal behaviors. In the control priming condition, interdependent self-construal predicted an increase in N400 to norm violations, implying that it enhances the accessibility of social norms. In the threat priming condition, however, interdependent self-construal predicted a decrease in both markers. Thus, this self-construal offers a sense of security, even when it is patently incapable of addressing the threat itself. We thus conclude that it breeds complacency under threat.
risk perception
threat
evolution
social norm
behavior
adaptation
pathogen
social psychology
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
Emotional working memory load selectively increases negativity bias

Cognitive resources are needed for successful executive functioning; when resources are limited due to competing demands, task performance is impaired. Although some tasks are accomplished with relatively few resources (e.g., judging trustworthiness and emotion in others), others are more complex. Specifically, in the face of emotional ambiguity (i.e., stimuli that do not convey a clear positive or negative meaning, such as a surprised facial expression), our decisions to approach or avoid appear to rely on the availability of top-down regulatory resources to overcome an initial negativity bias. Cognition-emotion interaction theories (e.g., dual competition) posit that emotion and executive processing rely on shared resources, suggesting that competing demands would hamper these regulatory responses towards emotional ambiguity. Here, we employed a 2x2 design to investigate the effects of load (low versus high) and domain (non-emotional vs. emotional) on evaluations of surprised faces. As predicted, there were domain-specific effects, such that categorizations of surprise were more negative for emotional than non-emotional loads. Consistent with prior work, low load (regardless of domain; i.e., domain-general) was associated with greater response competition on trials resulting in a positive categorization, showing that positive categorizations are characterized by an initial negativity. This effect was diminished under high load. These results lend insight into the resources supporting a positive valence bias by demonstrating that emotion-specific regulatory resources are important for overriding the initial negativity in response to emotional ambiguity. However, both domain-general and domain-specific loads impact the underlying processes.
emotion
stress, psychological, emotion, depressive, cope
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
When implicit prosociality trumps selfishness: the neural valuation system underpins more optimal choices when learning to avoid harm to others than to oneself

Humans learn quickly which actions cause them harm. As social beings, we also need to learn to avoid actions that hurt others. It is currently unknown if humans are as good at learning to avoid others' harm (prosocial learning) as they are at learning to avoid self-harm (self-relevant learning). Moreover, it remains unclear how the neural mechanisms of prosocial learning differ from those of self-relevant learning. In this fMRI study, 96 male human participants learned to avoid painful stimuli either for themselves or for another individual. We found that participants performed more optimally when learning for the other than for themselves. Computational modeling revealed that this could be explained by an increased sensitivity to subjective values of choice alternatives during prosocial learning. Increased value-sensitivity was further associated with empathic traits. On the neural level, higher value-sensitivity during prosocial learning was associated with stronger engagement of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) during valuation. Moreover, the VMPFC exhibited higher connectivity with the right temporoparietal junction during prosocial, compared to self-relevant, choices. Our results suggest that humans are particularly adept at learning to protect others from harm. This ability appears implemented by neural mechanisms overlapping with those supporting self-relevant learning, but with the additional recruitment of structures associated to the social brain. Our findings contrasts with recent proposals that humans are egocentrically biased when learning to obtain monetary rewards for self or others. Prosocial tendencies may thus trump the egocentric bias in learning when another person's physical integrity is at stake.
empathy
harm
prosocial behavior
learning
social psychology
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
Choosing for another: Social context changes dissociable computational mechanisms of risky decision-making

Choices under conditions of risk often have consequences not just for ourselves, but for others. Yet, it is unclear how the other’s identity (stranger, close friend, etc.) influences risky choices made on their behalf. Here, two groups of undergraduates made a series of risky economic decisions for themselves, for another person, or for both themselves and another person (i.e., shared outcomes); one group of participants made choices involving a same-sex stranger (n = 29), the other made choices involving a same-sex close friend (n = 28). Hierarchical Bayesian Estimation of computations underlying risky decision-making revealed that relative to choosing for themselves, people were more risk averse, more loss averse, and more consistent when choices involved another person. Interestingly, partner identity differentially modulated decision computations. People became risk neutral and more consistent when choosing for friends relative to strangers. In sum, these findings suggest that the complexity of the social world is mirrored in its nuanced consequences for our choices.
has
ann
decision making
consequences
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
Reduction in social learning and policy uncertainty about intentional social threat underlies paranoia: evidence from modelling a modified serial dictator game.

Current computational models suggest that paranoia may be explained by stronger higher-order beliefs about others and increased sensitivity to environments. However, it is unclear whether this applies to social contexts, and whether it is specific to harmful intent attributions, the live expression of paranoia. We sought to fill this gap this by fitting a computational model to data (n = 1754) from a modified serial dictator game, to explore whether pre-existing paranoia could be accounted by specific alterations to cognitive parameters characterising harmful intent attributions. We constructed a ‘Bayesian brain’ model of others’ intent, which we fitted to harmful intent and self-interest attributions made over 18 trials, across three different partners. We found that pre-existing paranoia was associated with greater uncertainty about other’s actions. It moderated the relationship between learning rates and harmful intent attributions, making harmful intent attributions less reliant on prior interactions. Overall, the level of harmful intent attributions was inversely related to their precision, and importantly, the opposite was true for self-interest attributions. Our results explain how pre-existing paranoia may be the result of an increased need to attend to immediate experiences in determining intentional threat, at the expense of what is already known, and more broadly, they suggest that environments that induce greater probabilities of harmful intent attributions may also induce states of uncertainty, potentially as an adaptive mechanism to better detect threatening others. Importantly, we suggest that if paranoia were able to be explained exclusively by domain-general alterations we wouldn’t observe differential parameter estimates underlying harmful-intent and self-interest attributions.
policy
uncertainty
modeling
threat
psychosis
paranoia
bayesian
social learning
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
The elusive effects of incidental anxiety on reinforcement-learning

Anxiety is a common affective state, characterized by the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over an anticipated event. Anxiety is suspected to have important negative consequences on cognition, decision-making and learning. Yet, despite a recent surge in studies investigating the specific effects of anxiety on reinforcement-learning, no coherent picture has emerged. Here, we investigated the effects of incidental anxiety on instrumental reinforcement learning, while addressing several issues and defaults identified in a focused literature review. We used a rich experimental design, featuring both a learning and a transfer phase, and a manipulation of outcomes valence (gains vs losses). In two variants (N = 2x50) of this experimental paradigm, incidental anxiety was induced with an established threat-of-shock paradigm. Model-free results show that incidental anxiety effects seem limited to a small, but specific increase in post-learning performance measured by a transfer task. A comprehensive modelling effort revealed that, irrespective of the effects of anxiety, individuals give more weight to positive than negative outcomes, and tend to experience the omission of a loss as a gain (and vice versa). However, in line with results from our targeted literature survey, isolating specific computational effects of anxiety on learning per se proved to be challenging. Overall, our results suggest that learning mechanisms are more complex than traditionally presumed, and raise important concerns about the robustness of the effects of anxiety previously identified in simple reinforcement-learning studies.
modeling
threat
neuroscience
decision making
computation
anxiety
learning
shock
stress, psychological, emotion, depressive, cope
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
Trustworthiness detection from faces: Does reliance on facial impressions pay off?

While people readily form and rely on trustworthiness impressions from faces, the question of whether these impressions are accurate remains debated. The present research examines whether having access to the facial appearance of counterparts provides a strategic advantage to participants when making trust decisions. Furthermore, we investigated whether people show above-chance accuracy in trustworthiness detection (a) when they make trust decisions vs. provide explicit trustworthiness ratings, (b) when judging male vs. female counterparts, and (c) when rating cropped images (with non-facial features removed) vs. uncropped images. Results showed that incentivized trust decisions (Study 1, n = 131) and predictions of counterparts’ trustworthiness (Study 2, n = 266) were unrelated to actual trustworthiness. Moreover, accuracy was not moderated by stimulus type (cropped vs. uncropped faces) or counterparts’ gender. Overall, these findings suggest that people are unable to detect the trustworthiness of strangers based on their facial appearance.
trust
accuracy
judgement
trustworthiness
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade
The Effect of Repetition on Truth Judgments Across Development

According to numerous research studies, when adults hear a statement twice, they are more likely to think it is true compared with when they have heard it only once. Multiple theoretical explanations exist for this illusory-truth effect. However, none of the current theories fully explains how or why people begin to use repetition as a cue for truth. In this preregistered study, we investigated those developmental origins in twenty-four 5-year-olds, twenty-four 10-year-olds, and 32 adults. If the link between repetition and truth is learned implicitly, then even 5-year-olds should show the effect. Alternatively, realizing this connection may require metacognition and intentional reflection, skills acquired later in development. Repetition increased truth judgments for all three age groups, and prior knowledge did not protect participants from the effects of repetition. These results suggest that the illusory-truth effect is a universal effect learned at a young age.
behavioral science
repetition
cognitive psychology
theory
moral, belief, conspiracy, personality, trait
neural, accuracy, elusive, task, trade