Social Cognitive and Social Neuroscience: Getting insights from studying social eavesdropping in golden hamsters and perceived unfairness on decision making in humans

Symposium 2-1Time:08:30 - 10:00

Wen-Sung Lai1,2,3
1Department of Psychology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
2Graduate Institute of Brain and Mind Sciences, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
3Neurobiology and Cognitive Science Center, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

Social neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field which has made enormous contributions to understand how neurobiological systems implement social processes and behavior. Both animal and human studies play an indispensable role in understanding the underlying mechanisms of social behaviors ranging from social learning to decision making. Two lines of research from our laboratory, the Laboratory of Integrated Neuroscience and Ethology at National Taiwan University, will be introduced in this talk as an example. In the first half of this talk, taking advantage of our established social eavesdropping model and agonistic behavior in male golden hamsters, we investigated behavioral consequence and functional neural activity during a 3-day social learning. Social eavesdropping is a specific type of social learning and it is defined as extracting information about the relative content of signalers from the interactions between the signalers. A set of three experiments was conducted to characterize and record behavioral responses, functional neuroanatomy, and electrophysiological activity during a 3-day social eavesdropping. Compared to males in the neutral and arena control groups, our data revealed that males exposed to fighting interaction had more information perceiving behaviors, more c-Fos labeled neurons in the anterior mid-cingulate cortex (aMCC), and altered neural activity patterns in aMCC during social eavesdropping. Our findings suggest the importance of the aMCC in social signal detection and provide further details regarding social eavesdropping. The second half of the talk concentrates on fairness perception in decision making in humans. By integrating the dictator game and a probabilistic gambling task, we aimed to investigate the effects of a negative experience induced by perceived unfairness on decision making using behavioral, model-fitting, and electrophysiological approaches. Participants were randomly assigned to the “Neutral”, “Harsh”, or “Kind” groups, which consisted of various asset allocation scenarios to induce different levels of perceived unfairness. The monetary gain was subsequently considered the initial asset in a negatively rewarded, probabilistic gambling task in which the participants were instructed to maintain as much asset as possible. Our behavioral results indicated that the participants in the Harsh group exhibited increased levels of negative emotions but retained greater total game scores than the participants in the other two groups. Parameter estimation of a reinforcement learning model using a Bayesian approach indicated that these participants were more loss-aversive and consistent in decision making. Data from simultaneous event-related potential recordings further demonstrated that these participants exhibited larger feedback-related negativity to unexpected outcomes in the gambling task, which suggests enhanced reward sensitivity and signaling of reward prediction error. Our study suggests that a negative experience may be an advantage in the modulation of reward-based decision making.

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 Important Dates

Submissions Open:
December 10, 2016

Symposia submissions due:
March 1, 2017

Abstract submissions due:
April 10, 2017

Authors will be notified of decisions by:
May 20-22, 2017

Registration open:
May 21, 2017

September 1-3, 2017