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Efficient learning mechanisms hold in the social domain and are implemented in the medial prefrontal cortex


Seid-Fatemi, Azade; Tobler, Philippe N (2015). Efficient learning mechanisms hold in the social domain and are implemented in the medial prefrontal cortex. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(5):735-743.

Abstract

When we are learning to associate novel cues with outcomes, learning is more efficient if we take advantage of previously learned associations and thereby avoid redundant learning. The blocking effect represents this sort of efficiency mechanism and refers to the phenomenon in which a novel stimulus is blocked from learning when it is associated with a fully predicted outcome. Although there is sufficient evidence that this effect manifests itself when individuals learn about their own rewards, it remains unclear whether it also does when they learn about others' rewards. We employed behavioral and neuroimaging methods to address this question. We demonstrate that blocking does indeed occur in the social domain and it does so to a similar degree as observed in the individual domain. On the neural level, activations in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) show a specific contribution to blocking and learning-related prediction errors in the social domain. These findings suggest that the efficiency principle that applies to reward learning in the individual domain also applies to that in the social domain, with the mPFC playing a central role in implementing it.

Abstract

When we are learning to associate novel cues with outcomes, learning is more efficient if we take advantage of previously learned associations and thereby avoid redundant learning. The blocking effect represents this sort of efficiency mechanism and refers to the phenomenon in which a novel stimulus is blocked from learning when it is associated with a fully predicted outcome. Although there is sufficient evidence that this effect manifests itself when individuals learn about their own rewards, it remains unclear whether it also does when they learn about others' rewards. We employed behavioral and neuroimaging methods to address this question. We demonstrate that blocking does indeed occur in the social domain and it does so to a similar degree as observed in the individual domain. On the neural level, activations in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) show a specific contribution to blocking and learning-related prediction errors in the social domain. These findings suggest that the efficiency principle that applies to reward learning in the individual domain also applies to that in the social domain, with the mPFC playing a central role in implementing it.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:11 Nov 2014 14:17
Last Modified:14 Feb 2018 08:41
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1749-5016
Additional Information:This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at: DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsu130
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsu130
PubMed ID:25326037

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