[SOC Seminar] Simplicity in Social Learning
SpeakerDr. Leor Hackel
LocationPsych East, 3834
We all want to spend time with people we value and who value us in return. How do we learn who these individuals are? One route is through complex planning: we can predict others’ behavior by inferring their preferences (e.g., how much they value us) or consulting a mental map that lets us generalize past experiences (e.g., inferring a mentor will offer knowledge based on our experience with prior mentors). But complex planning is effortful, and people tend to avoid mental effort. In this talk, I will highlight how simpler reward learning also guides social interactions. First, I highlight the role of affect: rewarding outcomes feel good, drawing us back to rewarding partners. In particular, after experiences of acceptance or rejection, both positive outcomes and a partner’s positive intentions draw people back to partners, through distinct neural pathways. Second, I highlight the role of expertise: humans are social experts with a wealth of social concepts, and this expertise helps us turn complex learning problems into simpler ones. These findings highlight how complex social behavior can emerge through simple strategies, with implications for social connection, intergroup relations, and impression formation.