Trusting and learning from others: Immediate and long-term effects of learning from observation and advice

Uri Hertz, Vaughan Bell, Nichola Raihani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Social learning underpins our species's extraordinary success. Learning through observation has been investigated in several species, but learning from advice - where information is intentionally broadcast - is less understood. We used a pre-registered, online experiment (n = 1492) combined with computational modelling to examine learning through observation and advice. Participants were more likely to immediately follow advice than to copy an observed choice, but this was dependent upon trust in the adviser: highly paranoid participants were less likely to follow advice in the short term. Reinforcement learning modelling revealed two distinct patterns regarding the long-term effects of social information: some individuals relied fully on social information, whereas others reverted to trial-and-error learning. This variation may affect the prevalence and fidelity of socially transmitted information. Our results highlight the privileged status of advice relative to observation and how the assimilation of intentionally broadcast information is affected by trust in others.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20211414
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume288
Issue number1961
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
U.H. was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (1532/20) and by the National Institute of Psychobiology in Israel (211-19-20). N.R. was supported by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (UF160412) and The Leverhulme Trust.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.

Keywords

  • advice
  • paranoia
  • reinforcement learning
  • reputation
  • social learning
  • trust

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology (all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)

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