Rational information search in welfare-tradeoff cognition

Tadeg Quillien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

One of the most important dimensions along which we evaluate others is their propensity to value our welfare: we like people who are disposed to incur costs for our benefit and who refrain from imposing costs on us to benefit themselves. The evolutionary importance of social valuation in our species suggests that humans have cognitive mechanisms that are able to efficiently extract information about how much another person values them. Here I test the hypothesis that people are spontaneously interested in the kinds of events that have the most potential to reveal such information. In two studies, I presented participants (Ns = 216; 300) with pairs of dilemmas that another individual faced in an economic game; for each pair, I asked them to choose the dilemma for which they would most like to see the decision that the individual had made. On average, people spontaneously selected the choices that had the potential to reveal the most information about the individual's valuation of the participant, as quantified by a Bayesian ideal search model. This finding suggests that human cooperation is supported by sophisticated cognitive mechanisms for information-gathering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105317
Pages (from-to)1-16
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Active learning
  • Computational modeling
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Social cognition
  • Theory of Mind


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