Prior preferences beneficially influence social and non-social learning

Nat Commun. 2017 Oct 10;8(1):817. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00826-8.


Our personal preferences affect a broad array of social behaviors. This includes the way we learn the preferences of others, an ability that often relies on limited or ambiguous information. Here we report an egocentric influence on this type of social learning that is reflected in both performance and response times. Using computational models that combine inter-trial learning and intra-trial choice, we find transient effects of participants' preferences on the learning process, through the influence of priors, and persistent effects on the choice process. A second experiment shows that these effects generalize to non-social learning, though participants in the social learning experiment appeared to additionally benefit by using their knowledge about the popularity of certain preferences. We further find that the domain-general egocentric influences we identify can yield performance advantages in uncertain environments.People often assume that other people share their preferences, but how exactly this bias manifests itself in learning and decision-making is unclear. Here, authors show that a person's own preferences influence learning in both social and non-social situations, and that this bias improves performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Learning*
  • Young Adult