Research – Follow the crowd?


Social influences in value-based decision-making

Suppose you are visiting Hamburg for the first time in your life. You enter a supermarket and intend to try a local beer. After wondering around the drinking section, you find the ASTRA beer (the left most one below) might be good, because the bottle is kinda lovely and the name may resemble the famous Alster Lake in Hamburg. All of a sudden, you realize that four teenagers come by, and they all grab the RATSHERRN beer (the green bottles below)! What will you do then? Will you change your mind to take the RATSHERRN beer, or stick with your first impression towards ASTRA? beer2This scenario perfectly describes the research question we are interested in.  (You know what, after sampling nearly 40 different kinds of beer, I personally would say, the RATSHERRN beer is indeed the best!)

Social influence, in particular, social conformity, largely exists in perceptual decision-making, yet it is surprisingly ignored in goal-directed learning. To fill this gap, we are investigating social influences in decision-making, particularly in goal-directed learning. We are trying to answer (1) How does knowing about other people’s decisions influence my own choices and my confidence rating under uncertainty? (2)  What is the underlying computation by which social influence is integrated into own decision-making? and (3) How such computation is represented in the brain?