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Social Information Integration: An Experimental and Computational Approach

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark

What

As we develop our opinions through daily life and make big and small decisions, we are constantly exposed to multiple sources of information: advice and more subtle cues from others, news, and gossip. Evaluating and integrating this information with our own beliefs and decisions allows us to effectively inhabit a complex and ever-changing world, which escapes the scope of experience of any single individual. However, this process may fail us miserably, for instance, when we trust an information source too much or too little. This project aims at providing a precise understanding of the way we integrate information from others across different contexts, how this information integration varies between individuals and how it may go wrong, as is seen for instance in schizophrenia.

Why

Failures to evaluate and integrate information from others appropriately may have ramifying consequences. Examples of this could be the spread of fake news and their political impact or financial bobbles, at a societal level, or the development of delusions in patients with schizophrenia, at an individual level. Understanding the cognitive mechanisms through which we assess and integrate information from others (i.e. social information) has clear repercussions for our ability to understand and intervene in such phenomena both at a societal level and at an individual level.

How

This project combines experimental testing and computational modelling to systematically investigate how healthy individuals integrate social information across a range of cognitive tasks that cover two key complementary dimensions of social information integration: explicit vs. implicit processes, and motor behaviour vs. beliefs. In addition, this will be studied in schizophrenia and in healthy individuals undergoing short pharmacological treatment. Schizophrenia provides a naturalistic case of how information integration may break down and pharmacological manipulations make it possible to investigate how specific alterations in neurotransmitter functioning impact social information integration and thus get a better understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms supporting it.

SSR

Getting a better understanding and models of the key mechanisms of social information integration can foster powerful advances in our understanding of complex social phenomena, how things may go wrong and how best to intervene both on an individual and societal level. Such models could also prove useful as both diagnostic tools and as measures of treatment efficacy as well as inspire the development of new interventions and prevention methods.