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Neural mechanisms of observational learning


Burke, Christopher J; Tobler, Philippe N; Baddeley, M; Schultz, W (2010). Neural mechanisms of observational learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 107(32):14431-14436.

Abstract

Individuals can learn by interacting with the environment and experiencing a difference between predicted and obtained outcomes (prediction error). However, many species also learn by observing the actions and outcomes of others. In contrast to individual learning, observational learning cannot be based on directly experienced outcome prediction errors. Accordingly, the behavioral and neural mechanisms of learning through observation remain elusive. Here we propose that human observational learning can be explained by two previously uncharacterized forms of prediction error, observational action prediction errors (the actual minus the predicted choice of others) and observational outcome prediction errors (the actual minus predicted outcome received by others). In a functional MRI experiment, we found that brain activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex respectively corresponded to these two distinct observational learning signals.

Abstract

Individuals can learn by interacting with the environment and experiencing a difference between predicted and obtained outcomes (prediction error). However, many species also learn by observing the actions and outcomes of others. In contrast to individual learning, observational learning cannot be based on directly experienced outcome prediction errors. Accordingly, the behavioral and neural mechanisms of learning through observation remain elusive. Here we propose that human observational learning can be explained by two previously uncharacterized forms of prediction error, observational action prediction errors (the actual minus the predicted choice of others) and observational outcome prediction errors (the actual minus predicted outcome received by others). In a functional MRI experiment, we found that brain activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex respectively corresponded to these two distinct observational learning signals.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
08 University Research Priority Programs > Foundations of Human Social Behavior: Altruism and Egoism
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:08 Jan 2011 11:11
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 04:38
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
Additional Information:Copyright: National Academy of Sciences USA
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1003111107
PubMed ID:20660717

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