Human susceptibility to social influence and its neural correlates are related to perceived vulnerability to extrinsic morbidity risks

Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 6;8(1):13347. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-31619-8.


Humans considerably vary in the degree to which they rely on their peers to make decisions. Why? Theoretical models predict that environmental risks shift the cost-benefit trade-off associated with the exploitation of others' behaviours (public information), yet this idea has received little empirical support. Using computational analyses of behaviour and multivariate decoding of electroencephalographic activity, we test the hypothesis that perceived vulnerability to extrinsic morbidity risks impacts susceptibility to social influence, and investigate whether and how this covariation is reflected in the brain. Data collected from 261 participants tested online revealed that perceived vulnerability to extrinsic morbidity risks is positively associated with susceptibility to follow peers' opinion in the context of a standard face evaluation task. We found similar results on 17 participants tested in the laboratory, and showed that the sensitivity of EEG signals to public information correlates with the participants' degree of vulnerability. We further demonstrated that the combination of perceived vulnerability to extrinsic morbidity with decoding sensitivities better predicted social influence scores than each variable taken in isolation. These findings suggest that susceptibility to social influence is partly calibrated by perceived environmental risks, possibly via a tuning of neural mechanisms involved in the processing of public information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Processes*
  • Social Behavior*